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This typically is the time of year when the final excursions of summer are taken, fair entries prepared and last year’s school supplies searched for any surviving pencils.

Unfortunately, life has not yet returned to “typical,” and the late summer 2021 is the Season of Discord.

The discord centers on the state mandate that all students and staff (K-12) wear masks to start the school year.

This past week, parents in the Ellensburg School District and the Cle Elum-Roslyn School District spoke up at public meetings to encourage the local boards to defy the state mandate and not require masks. Schools potentially face the loss of state and federal funding for noncompliance.

It is important to keep this within context. Parents were motivated to attend and speak out because of the state mandate requiring masks. No parents spoke up in support of wearing masks because at this point that is what schools are going to do.

There are parents who are adamant about their child not wearing a mask. They were well within their rights to speak up at the public meetings. Even if the decision is not being made at the local level, a school board meeting or forum, is an appropriate venue to ask questions and vent concerns.

What is not appropriate or acceptable is making threats, whether toward school board members, district employees or public health officials. The Ellensburg testimony occurred via Zoom and while parents were forceful in their views and desires, they were not physically threatening.

The Cle Elum forum was in person and got beyond heated with a speaker approaching Kittitas County Public Health Dr. Mark Larson at one point. There were law enforcement personnel present.

There is a different dynamic in a crowd setting, with cheers and boos spurring on speakers, than in a Zoom chat room where all but one voice is muted.

But this has gone beyond the “heat of the moment” behavior at a public forum. This past weekend, Kittcom reported a threat against the Cle Elum-Roslyn School District superintendent and her family.

There is a tendency for people to rationalize the behavior of those they agree with or who share their views. That cannot happen in this instance. People who working to encourage local defiance of the mask order or to make a change at the state level, need to speak out against any threat of violence by those within their ranks.

Health officials are adamant that the path out of this pandemic is vaccination (or, short of that, wearing masks). Even for people determined not to follow that path, it has be be clear that violence or the threat of violence is not a path out of this pandemic.

Schools are vital to a child’s education but parents are the most important “teachers” in a child’s life. We need to pay attention to the lessons they may be learning.

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