Steelville High School teacher Deb Schuey spoke to the school board at its monthly meeting on Thursday, October 15. The topic she addressed to the board was a concern about complaints that she was promoting the wearing of face masks to her students. The board did not respond to her statement or questions; instead, Superintendent Mike Whittaker reported he would follow up with her at a later time.
Schuey noted that part of her instruction is to teach her students “how to argue civilly,” to consider both sides of an argument. She also said that she talks to her students about dangers that they face—about not drinking and driving, about not leaving a friend alone who has had too much to drink, about date rape.
“I talk about wearing masks and socially distancing,” she said. “I was told that a board member requested that I stop talking about masks.” She noted that she is respectful about it, and usually suggests putting one on if students are working very closely together.
“I’m still pretty passionate about it,” she said. In close-contact situations she believes “that’s only respectful and responsible. I would say the same thing to my own children. I care about these kids and I can’t stay quiet. I try hard not to talk about masks unless it’s important.”
She told the board she would continue to tell her students not to drive after drinking alcohol and noted that date rape is a required topic for the college composition class she teaches. “I do it respectfully and with love,” she said.
Schuey questioned why asking students to wear a mask is an issue when students have been told for many years that they must remove their hats when entering a school building. She pointed out wearing a hat doesn’t harm anyone, while it is possible that not wearing a mask could transmit illness.
“Wearing a mask is a thing of respect,” she said. “It can save a person’s life, whether you believe the science or not. I don’t understand why asking someone to wear a mask when they’re ‘this close’ to someone is a problem.”
She asked the board whether anyone needed to give her any further information, and Whittaker noted, per board policy, at the meeting, the board would simply listen to what she had to say, and he would follow up with her at another time.
Schuey is teaching this year from a separate office within the library. She noted that she had been given “a bubble” at the beginning of the year but found that she would still approach students who had questions, so the more substantial barrier of the wall and window was more effective. “It works great. I have eye contact,” she said, noting both the audio and visual components were successful.