Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
An Albuquerque Public Schools Board meeting to review and refine COVID safety guidelines came to an abrupt end Wednesday night when some community members became “disruptive and nasty” in their opposition to an indoor face mask mandate that is being imposed at all APS properties and on school buses.
At one point, a protester produced preprinted letters of resignation and asked board members to sign the forms, said board Vice President Lorenzo Garcia, who was running the meeting.
Garcia repeatedly warned those who came to speak in person at the meeting that if they didn’t restrain themselves and present their positions within the framework established for comment he would end the meeting.
He did just that at about 6:30 p.m., 90 minutes after the meeting started. Board meetings generally last until 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.
“There was a group of people that came and they were very much anti-mask and anti-vaccine,” Garcia said. “It just got progressively more disruptive and nasty.”
It was the first APS board meeting that allowed in-person comments since COVID safety measures were put in place, although many of the people who signed up to offer comment did so remotely via an online connection.
While some of them made reference to having children in APS, others did not and it was unclear if they had students enrolled in the district.
“It looked to me from what they were saying that they were mostly coming in with a particular agenda – to try and convince us that the science (behind wearing a mask) was not valid,” Garcia said.
One woman said, “APS board members do not have authority over my body nor my children’s bodies.”
A man commented, “What you’re doing is harming our kids. It is wrong.”
As Garcia gaveled for quiet, a woman repeatedly shouted, “We will not stop putting pressure on you.”
Those who spoke in support of the mask mandate were heckled, including Monique Vallabhan, an Albuquerque physician. She pointed out that “even though the majority of children and adolescents with COVID infections produce only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, they can still spread the disease to those who they come in contact with.”
Oral comments from those opposing masks seemed tame compared to some of the comments emailed to APS in the days leading up to the board meeting:
• “This is beyond ridiculous, and we are sick and tired of your (expletive). We won’t be wearing masks, and there isn’t a thing you’re going to do about it either.”
• “You’re a bunch of idiots.”
• “I moved out of your screwup State were (sic) Communist Liberals are in charge.”
• “You can stick the mask up your (expletive). We parents will not tolerate your (expletive). And we will start speaking up. The fights (sic) just began (sic).”
• “The whole point of the vaccine was to get kids out of masks, and now you want to mask vaccinated kids too? Are you out of your (expletive) minds???”
Garcia said the board might take up mask-wearing at a meeting Wednesday.
In the wake of a surge of COVID infections, APS decided to follow the revised recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that everyone older than the age of 2 wear masks.
And New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, citing CDC guidance, recommended that New Mexicans wear a mask indoors out of an abundance of caution.