Home > Essays > Oregon School District “Debate” Over Governor’s Mask Mandate Leads to Firing of Superintendent, Alice-in-Wonderland Enforcement of Rules in HS.

Oregon School District “Debate” Over Governor’s Mask Mandate Leads to Firing of Superintendent, Alice-in-Wonderland Enforcement of Rules in HS.

September 1, 2021

A news article by Liliana Frankel from OregonLive, which offers “Fact-first journalism when you need it most”, describes the recent actions of a fact-challenged school board who dismissed Superintendent Kevin Purnell for following the rules set forth by the State. The rule he followed that got him into trouble? Mandating masks in schools. The logic that got him fired is probably best summed up in a public comment made at the school board meeting where the firing was announced: 

Speaking during public comment, Adrian resident Paul Shenk said that while he enjoyed skirting rules, “Kevin (the terminated Superintendent) likes rules.”

“What I feel the frustration is, is that we expect the administrators to advocate for the community,” said Shenk. “As superintendents, you guys need to band together to fight.”

An informed and civil electorate cannot get enjoyment from “skirting rules” and must ultimately accept rules even if they do not like them. The rules promulgated on wearing masks were developed based on the best evidence available today regarding COVID, which is transmitted by air particles that can be blocked most effectively by wearing masks. 

But here’s what is ironic: Mr. Purnell may have been “following the rules” set forth by the state in enacting a mask mandate, but he was clearly skirting the rules when it came to enforcing the mandate. How so? Read these paragraphs: 

While Adrian High School Principal BIlly Wortman insisted in an interview with the Enterprise that masks are required in his building, observers reported that few students at the high school are wearing them.

One high school student interviewed said that “not many” of her peers wear masks, but that at the elementary and middle school levels there has been more compliance.

The student said that when Wortman talked about masking, he invoked the framework of “discrimination.”

If a fellow student wasn’t wearing a mask, the student said, “We were told not to discriminate or bring it up as much. Try not to be discriminatory, basically.”

“We don’t want to discriminate against anybody here, and if I hear about discrimination against anybody, it gets dealt with swiftly,” said Wortman.

Another student said that the only authority figure who had insisted on mask compliance in his experience was his bus driver. School buses are covered under a federal order mandating face coverings on public transit.

Needless to say, if a student attending Mr. Wortman’s school has a deficient immune system or resides with a parent or grandparent with compromised immune system, they are being placed in peril by Mr. Wortman’s failure to enforce the rules set forth by the Oregon Governor and State Department of Education…. and while SOME Governors are OK placing those in danger of getting Covid in peril, neither the Oregon State governor nor the federal government are OK with that, and for that reason they are intent in enforcing mask mandates. 

And here’s where we are today as a result of the politicization of vaccinations combined with the “logic” of some elected officials: 

Jake Speelmon, former Adrian School Board member, said in an interview with the Enterprise, “(Purnell) is going to protect the district by protecting its employees, and a lot of the community would say, ‘I think that the superintendent needs to protect the kids, and protect the education the school gives by protecting the kids. They see those things as opposing. Before, you could do both. Now, with the political nature of vaccines, masks, government threats and that stuff, I think you’ve got to pick a side. You’ll toe the line, or you’ll stand on your beliefs.”

While it is difficult to connect the dots in this thinking, it appears that the Board member sees the mask mandates as an effort to “protect teachers” as opposed to “protecting kids” and any effort to find middle ground is impossible because of “the political nature of vaccines (and) masks”. The last time I looked Covid had higher incident rates among ANYONE who wasn’t vaccinated despite their political affiliation and higher transmission rates among those who failed to wear masks. I trust that at some point OregonLive, who provides “Fact-first journalism when you need it most”, will repeatedly trumpet those facts. 



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