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Group of Marshall County Parents Champions Freedom of Choice on Masks

MOUNDSVILLE — Scores of parents gathered in Moundsville on Friday night in the wake of the Marshall County Board of Education’s decision to require mask-wearing in school starting Monday — and none of them seemed to be happy about the new guidelines.

The school board held an emergency meeting Thursday and voted to implement the new mask mandate. The district began the school year with a mask-optional policy in place, but the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases — and revised guidelines from the West Virginia Board of Education regarding contact tracing quarantines — prompted the board to strengthen the district’s stance. School officials in Marshall County this week said in light of these new guidelines, universal indoor masking procedures seemed to be the only means to maintain in-person learning through the lingering health crisis.

Concerned parents who gathered Friday night oppose these procedures, but were reluctant to speak out publicly.

In fact, the group voted to hold the meeting privately behind closed doors for fear that their position would be misconstrued and that there would be retribution in the community if they spoke out against the measures.

More than 50 people filed into the meeting of concerned parents Friday to discuss the district’s new rules and to determine if there were any options for a course of action to express opposing opinions. Organizers of the gathering, Amanda and John Bonar — who said they received backlash for posting about Friday’s parent meeting on social media — spoke reluctantly but passionately about their position.

“If you want your kid to wear a mask, then let them, but don’t make our kids wear masks,” John Bonar said. “Give us the choice to do that. That’s our opinion.”

The Bonars have four boys in the Marshall County Schools system and own a business that employs 12 families which include other students in the school district.

“I’m not against vaccinations,” Amanda Bonar said. “I’m not against masks. I’m not at all. If you feel your child is safer with a mask, then you deserve that right to be able to send your child to school wearing that mask. But if I feel that it’s not safe for my child, then I should be allowed the same right.”

The concerned parents indicated that the increasing safety procedures within the school district and beyond are being propelled less by science, logic and common sense — and more by high-pressured political theater.

“They shouldn’t be forcing children to wear masks at all,” Amanda Bonar said. “Especially dirty masks that don’t get washed, that fall on the floor, that fall on the bus, that hit the lunchroom table, that were in their pockets, that they wipe their noses with … If they really want to keep the kids safe, and if it is about health, at the least they should be providing kids with clean, safe masks — every 15 minutes or 20 minutes, whatever hospital protocol is.”

The Bonars said expressing a differing opinion about these issues can be costly in this political climate, if your views are seen in a negative light, the consequences could affect your business and your livelihood. You could quickly and easily be “destroyed in the court of public opinion,” they noted.

“It’s segregation. It’s discrimination,” Amanda Bonar said. “It’s such a shame that you can’t have a difference of opinion but still work together. We’re not trying to abolish masks. If that’s your choice, you should have that right.”

The Bonars said any medical professional would agree that as soon as you lay your mask down, it’s contaminated, and it’s no longer doing its job. Yet they said employees of Moundsville Middle School who see the kids daily have told parents that they have witnessed about 70-80% of the students wearing the same mask every day — day after day.

“So what’s the point of wearing a mask if it’s dirty and it’s not doing the job that they wish it would do?” Amanda Bonar asked. “It just seems like we’re all just following the new normal, which isn’t normal by any means. You shouldn’t have to choose between wearing a mask and participating in life. The whole agenda of ‘get the vaccination and wear the mask, and life will return to normal’ is false. It’s a carrot dangling in front of everyone’s face. We will never go back to normal — this is a virus that is here to stay. It will always change into a new strain. ”

The COVID policies that are being put in place now are “laughable” and make little sense, the concerned parents indicated.

“It’s not that we’re attacking the school board or the teachers by any means,” Amanda Bonar said. “I have complete faith in our school system. I really do. I trust the teachers. If I didn’t fully trust the school system with my children, I would not send them to school.”

She said her children could be homeschooled, but they chose to send them to public schools so they can interact with friends and participate in extracurricular activities while getting an education.

“But you can’t live in fear,” she said. “You can’t stay home. You can’t cancel school. You can’t cancel prom. You can’t cancel graduation. It’s crazy.”

Parents should have the right to make these decisions about their children’s health, the Bonars said, adding that many people vehemently oppose that notion.

“I just feel like it’s very sad how hateful others are who don’t share the same opinion,” Amanda Bonar said. “I’m not hateful toward someone who wants to vaccinate their child. That’s your decision. If you want to do that, then I support you. If you wanted to vaccinate your child and they wouldn’t let you, then I would fight for your right to do that. Because we’re Americans. This is America. And I think that’s where a lot of people lose sight of it.”

Amanda Bonar said there is little logic to the fact that students have to wear their mask on the bus, in the halls and during class, but not at lunch, on the playground or at the football games.

After posting opposing viewpoints on social media, Amanda Bonar said someone responded by stating, “do you really want children to die?”

“They are so concerned over this virus that has a 99% survival rate, but what are you doing to help the children who are stuck in the (Child Protective Services) system, going to bed hungry with no food at the house, being sexually, physically and mentally abused by their parents?” she asked “Where’s the outcry for that? But a mask makes you a hero? It’s like a cape. You put the mask on, and now you’re a hero. This has gone on long enough.”

The Bonars and the concerned parents said they felt like they needed to step up and take action in order to keep basic freedoms from being taken away from them.

“One of the biggest problems is that we’re being censored, greatly,” Amanda Bonar said, noting that she owned a business that led her to be well versed in social media algorithms, and that she was familiar with being in “Facebook jail” and with other forms of big-tech thought policing.

“Anything that you have to say about any of these topics is getting you immediately banned, your posts are getting pushed down lower and lower,” she said. “We’re not the only ones. There are a lot of people like us. But no one will speak out on social media, because they’re so afraid of the backlash. And it’s terrible that you can’t voice your opinion.”

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