Masks, Tension, Nazi Germany, and CUSD

At the CUSD board meeting, John Soares, a meeting regular, once again addressed mask mandates on Wednesday, Aug 25, 2021. (Courtesy YouTube)

The tension between the Clovis Unified School District (CUSD) Governing Board and pro-mask choice parents continues to rise just two weeks into the school year, as is evident at the latest board meeting on Aug. 25.

As parents addressed the board one by one, the board was subject to a slew of insults and comparisons ranging from kings to slaves to Nazis. Additionally, board members were told they are not above God or the U.S. Constitution.

CUSD Board President Dr. Steven Fogg was the target of most of the insults, with one attendee, Sean Soares, accusing Dr. Fogg of pushing a “vaccine agenda.”

“By the fact that you’re pushing vaccines, Dr. Fogg, that scares me because we’re on a path to ankle monitors like they’re doing in Oregon,” Soares said. “We’re on a crazy path right now. And you’re helping push that agenda, and it’s scary.”

Soares, who has risen to the forefront as the voice of some parents in CUSD, said he and other parents would be filing paperwork to the California Department of Public Health claiming the state mandates are unconstitutional. 

Dr. Fogg disputed pushing a “vaccine agenda,” clarifying that he is not trying to persuade others to get vaccinated but has the right to express what he believes.

“I am never going to come here and try to persuade anyone to do something they don’t want to do or shouldn’t do,” Dr. Fogg said. “But I have a right to give you what I feel. I felt the way out of this [pandemic] is by vaccinations.”

Joey Myers, a father of two students in CUSD, compared the board to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand regarding masks and vaccinations.

Myers started a petition for mask choice, and as of Aug. 26, it has 555 signatures.

He also stated that parents decide when mandates end, fearing that the board won’t fight for the parents regarding other issues.

Nazi Germany

Several parents at the board meeting described CUSD following state mandates comparable to Germans following orders given by the Nazis under the Third Reich.

Justin Teso referenced Gies, Klieman, Kugler, and Voskuijl, all of the families who provided help to Anne Frank, her family, and the Van Pelts during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. 

Teso said it is becoming more apparent who would protect the Franks (turning toward the parents in the crowd) and who would obey and sign their death wish (addressing the board).

Kyle Valenzuela referenced a quote from Nazi Dictator Adolf Hitler’s Feb. 24, 1920 speech “The Nazi 25-point Programme” where Hitler said, “The common good before the individual good.”

“Another quote I think you all might agree with, from the way you’re acting, is ‘The common good, before the individual,’ Valenzuela said. “That’s what we’re preaching to the kids. Again, the common good before the individual. This is from Hitler.”

He continued, “You got to look back in time and know what you’re saying. We know what you’re saying, and that’s not the right path. And you need to give that back to the parents where it belongs. Because this is America, not Nazi Germany.”

Board Members Respond

Dr. Fogg responded to those in attendance following public comments and said he appreciates the parents attending even if it means they berate him and the board.

“I know berating school boards is the thing across the nation right now,” Dr. Fogg said. “I do work with these other six members as a board, and I just tell you from my experience that they do have the best interests of our children at heart.”

Board member Susan Hatmaker was also appreciative of those sharing their concerns but denounced insults thrown at the board during public comment.

“I personally don’t appreciate the insults to any individual board member or the entire board. You can say what you want to say. That’s fine,” said Hatmaker. “But I think it’s incredibly rude for you to come in, yell at us, make threats, and be disrespectful.”

Hatmaker pointed out that when parents discussed the push for mask choice, the board unanimously voted to provide parents with mask exemptions without doctor verifications.

However, that option was short-lived as the state mandated that all mask exemptions must have a doctor’s verification.

Hatmaker said she agreed with the parents’ concerns to the board, but many of the insults were inaccurate and outrageous.

Board member David DeFrank seconded Hatmaker’s feelings toward the insults hurled at the board.

“A lot of things said tonight were pretty outrageous,” DeFrank said. “And it’s pretty frustrating when this board has done quite a bit to try to afford parents as many choices permitted under the law and then to be compared to Nazis.” 

DeFrank hopes that the level of discussion would improve in the future but said he is not confident that will happen.

“This was an emotion-filled meeting once again. We feel the emotion like you do,” Dr. Fogg said. “And I hope that we can all give each other a little bit of grace.”