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  • Tom Sgouros

School Committee Report: Shut down

The October 12 North Kingstown School Committee meeting was adjourned during the public comment period at the start of the meeting when a few audience members not only refused to wear masks (per school department policy and the current public meeting legal requirements) but began to shout about it and berate the committee members from the floor.

Before the public comment period, the agenda included a presentation about an award the school department received for its budget presentation the seventh year in a row, which was noted as a way to recognize the efforts of retiring controller Steven Janelle.

Unfortunately the evening took a turn for the worse after that. Committee chair Greg Blasbalg admonished a couple of women in the audience for not wearing masks and threatened to end the meeting unless they complied. One of them left while the other pulled a mask over her mouth, pointedly letting her nose remain outside to stand a determined and lonely vigil against the terrible injustice of it all.

During the public comment part of the agenda only one person managed to speak, about the scourge of people who care about equity and diversity in the schools. We never got to hear any more though, because another woman in a blue shirt came in and sat right in front of me, and fairly pointedly refused to wear a mask. Committee chair Greg Blasbalg stopped the next speaker and asked her to put one on. This provoked her to begin shouting about not having to wear a mask because she had a doctor's permission to never wear one ever and nobody can make me and this is a free country. She clenched a folded envelope in her hand -- maybe containing a letter from some doctor? -- and seemed to think that waving it around would absolve her of infecting anyone with anything.

Blasbalg repeated his threat to end the meeting, but this was met with more shouting, from the woman and from people in the back row. The woman in blue marched toward the microphone and said the CDC doesn't know s*** about the virus and she knows more than they do, with an accompanying chorus of yells and whistles of support. The chair looked at his fellow committee members, and said he'd entertain a motion to adjourn, which was quickly made and seconded.

More shouting as they filed out. My favorite was the guy in back who shouted "First Amendment" and "Free speech" in alternation. I'm not sure what he was getting at.

At this point, prudent observers thought it was high time to leave the auditorium to the pro-covid crowd, but one of the disrupters kindly circulated a video of the ensuing hilarity on Twitter the next day, so those of us who fled the unhealthy atmosphere wouldn't miss a thing.

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