By Tom Tolen & Jon King /

Although there are no plans to require students in Brighton Area Schools to wear masks this fall, the majority of comments at the Board of Education meeting Monday night were in opposition to masking.

A few who commented at the meeting spoke about “Critical Race Theory”, which has never been discussed at a Brighton school board meeting. According to the publication Education Week, critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that “…racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.” It is almost exclusively taught at the university level.

Critical Race Theory was one of the issues that Livingston County Board of Commissioners Chairman Wes Nakagiri cited, without evidence, as being taught in local schools when he sent out an email to followers earlier this month encouraging them to attend school board meetings and protest that and other issues.

About 35 people addressed the board at the first in-person meeting in many months, many of them saying mandated masking is detrimental to the student's mental and emotional health and, according to one, allegedly is not effective in preventing the coronavirus, which is contrary to guidance from public health officials. Their statements were a moot point, however, as there are no plans to require that Brighton students wear masks in school for the 2021-22 term. The Livingston County Health Dept., however, encourages the voluntary use of a mask in all indoor public settings.

After the meeting, board Vice President Alicia Reid, presiding in place of vacationing President Roger Myers, told WHMI that, “Overall, the evening went very well. The people were generally respectful of the time of others (by conforming to the 3-minute time limit).”

At the public comments portion of the meeting, the first speaker was Christina Kafkakis, saying she represented almost “60 concerned parents,” urging the board to require that all students wear masks in school this fall. She said that Livingston County has a lower vaccination rate than the state average, and children, especially those under 12, are particularly vulnerable. Kafkakis said, quoting, “We must recognize that as of today, no children under 12 years old will be eligible for vaccination before the start of the school year.” She then continued, “Why would any school district want that kind of liability when public health experts have deemed these measures necessary for the safety of our children in school?”

District parent Jennifer Smith, who has three school-aged children, told the board that she enrolled her kids in virtual school, but it wasn’t working for them so she ended up home-schooling. Smith also said her oldest, who is in high school and has a heart condition, returned to in-person learning in January but had a very difficult time. She also chastised the pro-maskers, who, she said, harassed her on online social media pages. Smith said they, “shamed, made fun of and completely annihilated me because I simply said I didn’t agree with someone.” To mumblings from some in the audience, she stated she was “tired of it on a community level, and this community is better than this.”

The majority in the audience said that masking should not be mandated. “It should be the parents’ choice,” said Elizabeth Johnson, the parent of three small children. The board did not respond immediately to the public’s comments, which is its standard policy. The next meeting of the Brighton Board of Education will be on Aug. 9th at 7 p.m.