New Blue Valley school board candidates advance with strong stances on masks

Education

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — It wasn’t quite a sweep, but the school board candidates most critical of masking and COVID-19 classroom strategies had a strong showing on election day in Johnson County.

Olathe is on its way to add two or more of these candidates to its school board, and Blue Valley could be following suit.

Voter turnout was up Tuesday compared to recent elections for these positions with some candidates saying the political interest ties directly into how well attended school board meetings have been since the start of the pandemic.

For example, during Blue Valley’s August school board meeting, one speaker would eventually win a seat on the board.

“Hey guys. So my name’s Kaety Bowers. I’m a mom to six Blue Valley students. Here is a third of them. I’m a 12-year resident of Overland Park and a Garth Brooks fan,” Bowers said during the public comment of the August meeting. She had two young children with her as she spoke.

Her point was that following the Garth Brooks concert in Kansas City, a part of his now-canceled tour, people were not required to wear masks at the concert, but kids must wear masks at school.

Another candidate — now poised for victory, according to unofficial election results, spoke during a September meeting. Jim McMullen said America, specifically Blue Valley Public Schools, is too strict on masking young children compared to Europe.

“I’ve heard that six or seven times today that the kids are just fine. They’re not all just fine. But who’s better to make that decision. In my view, it’s the parents,” McMullen said during public comment in September.

The near-sweep of open board seats was true across Johnson County with a new crop of parents calling for relaxed COVID-19 mitigation strategies while using a vocabulary influenced by online discussion.

For example, here’s Bowers during the August meeting, criticizing an online survey sent by Blue Valley Schools to ranking priorities and thoughts.

“There’s also no way to determine how many times an individual re-voted, up-voted, down-voted or reported thoughts. In essence, your top 20 ‘thoughts’ aren’t your top 20 ‘thoughts’ at all,” Bowers said.

“They’re an amalgamation of keyboard warriors who openly use social media to encouraging sending the link to relatives, friends, other keyboard warriors outside of Blue Valley and to encourage multiple votes, multiple thoughts, and heavy flagging and reporting of comments that didn’t fit their narrative.”

Election results are expected to be certified next week.

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