In this June 11, 2021, file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks during a news conference at the state Capitol building in Santa Fe. (Morgan Lee / AP)
Mike Landry August 3, 2021 at 3:38pm
Floyd, New Mexico, is about 200 miles east of Albuquerque, perhaps a half-hour from the Texas border.
Little more than a wide spot in the road, Floyd has a few homes and buildings, a post office that’s essentially a mobile home, Floyd Baptist Church sitting beneath a tall white steeple and the buildings of the Floyd Municipal School District.
Last week, Floyd’s school board decided to try something new.
On July 26, the board said students would not be required to wear masks at school, according to The Eastern New Mexico News.
The problem was that earlier that day, the New Mexico Public Education Department released its “safe practices” for the coming school year.
Of course, you know what the agency decided: The state mandated that when school opens, students must wear masks while indoors. That meant masks for all elementary students, vaccinated or not, and masks for unvaccinated high school students.
So Floyd’s school board decision was contrary to the newly announced state policy.
And New Mexico wasted no time letting the Floyd school board know it was out of line.
“It is extremely troubling that this board has taken official action in direct violation of the requirements to maintain the health and safety of the community,” read a letter dashed off by Ryan Stewart, the state’s secretary of education. (The full letter was posted by the Roosevelt Review.)
Should local school districts stand up to state mandates?
The letter implied that the school district was acting horribly, corroding the underpinnings of the health, order and decency of New Mexico, and perhaps the U.S. — and, for that matter, all of Western civilization.
Stewart’s letter cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and noted “the ever changing landscape of the COVID pandemic … with continuing increases projected by scientists,” while pointing out that the majority of children under the age of 12 are not vaccinated.
The Floyd school board had to reverse its decision by noon Tuesday, the letter said. Otherwise, it “could result in adverse licensure actions against licensed individuals, suspension of school board governance, and other applicable enforcement actions,” Stewart added.
“Any punitive actions by the board against the Superintendent, other administrators, or school or district staff for following COVID-Safe Practices may result in immediate suspension of school board governance. Furthermore, the District will be subject to ongoing monitoring and site visits to ensure compliance with health protocols.”
Also, “Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings and call off Christmas!” No, wait. That was from the movie “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.”
No matter. The tone was essentially the same.
Although Stewart is soon leaving his post, the restrictions on Floyd are endorsed by the office of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Eastern New Mexico News reported. Her name also appeared on Stewart’s letter.
Leon Nall, president of the school board, told KOB-TV, “I do not think the department of education understands what goes on in rural America” — a sentiment echoed by Republican state Rep. Jim Townsend, who indicated policies adopted in the population center of Albuquerque don’t necessarily make sense in other parts of New Mexico and said the state was using “bullying tactics.”
Nall said there was no problem if someone wanted to wear a mask at Floyd schools and that the district would make accommodations — such as providing distance learning — for anyone desiring it.
The school board said it made the COVID policy changes because previous methods hadn’t worked. And Floyd wants to attract students, since some had been transferring to Texas schools or private schools.
“What I’m hoping to see moving forward is local control is returned to the school districts,” Nall said.
The average class size in Floyd public schools is 12, KOB-TV reported.
With the deadline for compliance with state mandates looming, the Floyd school board held a special meeting Monday night to review its position.
It’s standing by its original decision.
“We decided to send the department of education the reply to the letter that we had received from the secretary of ed — a note … saying ‘thank you’ for the letter but you don’t have the authority to do what you have asked us to do,” Nall told The Western Journal just before the state’s Tuesday noon deadline.
He said the school district has received nothing but support for its stand from the community and around the country.
There’s a lesson in the Floyd school district’s stand.
Decades-long consolidations of school districts have pulled away parental influence and control.
So the education establishment, joined by credibility-challenged public health officials, is increasingly deaf to the concerns and wisdom of local communities.
And with all the controversy surrounding COVID — and all the censorship, and all the junk science — do you think the parents of the tiny school district in Floyd, New Mexico, would approve decisions that might harm anyone as precious as their own children?