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Our view: There’s nothing wrong with voicing opinions about masks or any issue to boards and councils, but please keep it respectful and civil

Meanwhile, away from meetings, board members are being threatened.

Herald pull quote, 8/28/21
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Some three dozen people attended the most recent meeting of the Grand Forks School Board, upset that the board enacted a mask mandate for all school buildings to start the school year.

The same night in East Grand Forks, an attendee shouted down Don Warne, a representative from the UND medical school who was there to speak on the efficacy of masks. Although the East Grand Forks School Board opted to only recommend – but not require – masks, the meeting still was contentious.

Meanwhile, away from meetings, board members are being threatened.

“What’s been disappointing to me are the threats we’ve been getting as board members,” said Amber Flynn, vice president of the Grand Forks School Board. She said some of the emails she has received include ugly language, such as "rioting at the doors of schools," "disruption" and "protests."

School board members everywhere have come under fire in recent weeks as COVID-19 numbers rise and as districts are forced to decide whether masks will be required among children as they return to school. A quick Google search shows it’s widespread. In Brownsburg, Ind., for instance, flyers were distributed that show men in masks holding guns and calling board members “child abusers.”

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Uncomfortable interactions probably are happening at many places in our region, but without publicity as board members don’t want to fan the flames of controversy.

Please, everybody: Slow down and let calm discussion, discourse and common decency take its rightful place over shouting and threats.

The Herald doesn’t always agree with the School Board, the City Council, the mayor or anyone else at the top of public entities. But we always appreciate the work they do and the hours they put in as they try to make the community a better place.

To tell the truth, we’re not even sure exactly how we feel about masks in school, as we weigh medical and scientific data vs. the effectiveness of masks on fidgety children.

But in the end, school boards everywhere are just doing the important task – an unenviable one at that – that lies before them. It’s OK to question board, council and commission members. They are, after all, public officials who have agreed to make decisions on behalf of many.

If we don’t like their decisions, we can simply vote them out during the next election. Or sooner than that, even – in Fargo, for instance, a group has gathered thousands of signatures in hopes of setting a recall election to oust members of the Fargo School Board. Fair enough – it’s allowable by law, and if enough people back the movement, we say move forward.

But that’s a lot different than threatening board members who are simply trying to do the job they feel they were elected to do.

In the future, so many school positions will be difficult to fill as community members intimidate and verbally abuse coaches, administrators, teachers, board members and the like. And then who will fill those important jobs, which come with modest pay and increasingly large headaches?

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All we ask is this: Please, take a breath and voice opposition – even firm and resolute opposition – in a respectful manner.

What to read next
A discussion Monday by the Grand Forks Committee of the Whole could lead to changes for public comments at city meetings.