The father of a kindergarten student went viral after speaking at an August 16 school board meeting in Franklin, Tennessee, to criticize parents for flouting a new mask mandate implemented in elementary schools.
The debate over masks in Williamson County schools had garnered national attention after a raucous school board meeting on August 10. The meeting – during which board members heard from the public and voted in favor of a new mandate – was marked by jeers and chants from anti-mask activists. Outside the meeting, crowds of demonstrators rallied in opposition to the mandate. Some demonstrators were filmed following people who had spoken in favor of masks and making threats.
At the next school board meeting, Justin Kanew, who identified himself as the father of a five-year-old kindergarten student, castigated other parents over their views on Critical Race Theory and masks, arguing that their refusals to adhere to mandates were anti-democratic.
“First of all, Critical Race Theory is not in our schools, and it never was, and the people here who complain about it did not know what it was six months ago and had never heard of it,” Kanew said. “That’s why they’re going after diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) instead, and trying to pretend they’re the same thing. They aren’t. And frankly, there aren’t many communities around the globe who need DEI more than this that we live in,” he added.
“On another note, I’m a dad of a new kindergartener and her first day was right after the chaos last week,” Kanew said. “She went to school, and she was one of just a few kids in her class wearing a mask, which made her ask me why she had to. My answer was: ‘Because we want to take care of other people.’ She’s five years old but she understood that concept, and it’s disappointing that more adults around her can’t seem to grasp it,” he said.
Kanew also took aim at people claiming “religious exemptions” in order to flout mask mandates.
“I asked a pastor friend of mine, and he was very clear there is no biblical justification for using the Bible to get out of a mask mandate passed by a majority of this elected board. But thousands are doing it anyway, calling it a religious exemption, which is frankly just sad,” Kanew said.
“Avoiding masks is not in the bible, but taking care of others is,” Kanew said.
“Now today we have Governor Lee’s executive order to allow opt-outs, which is government overreach undercutting a local decision. If you only like democracy when it goes your way, you don’t actually like democracy,” he concluded.
On Thursday, August 19, after Kanew’s speech began going viral, he tweeted: “If we’re wrong, you wore a mask. Whoops, sorry. If you’re wrong, your kid gets sick or someone you love dies. Seems like a pretty simple choice.”
Williamson County Schools said on Thursday that they were “seeing an increase in the number of positive COVID cases” in their schools, and would be releasing positive case numbers on their website on Tuesday and Friday afternoons.
As of August 16, 47 staff members and 276 students were in isolation with a confirmed positive case, the website said. Credit: Williamson County Schools via Storyful