Mask being placed

Efforts by a recently formed organization to recall members of the Williamson County Board of Education won’t be able to proceed through the Williamson County Election Commission.

Recall Williamson, a group formed partially by parents of Williamson County Schools students in reaction to the release of the district’s reopening framework on July 9, has voiced concern over the plan’s mandate that students and teachers wear masks during the course of the school day.

The requirement is in place regardless of the coronavirus outbreak’s spread risk level at opening day on Aug. 7 for WCS.

Board members voted 11-1 Monday night to approve the plan presented by WCS Superintendent Jason Golden.

On its website, Recall Williamson stated, “We invite board members of Williamson County Schools to reconsider this framework and remove the mask mandate. Otherwise, we invite the public to join us in submitting a petition to the Williamson County Election Commission to recall our county school board members.”

But according to Chad Gray, election administrator for the county’s Election Commission, a recall “can’t happen with us.”

“Metro Davidson has measures in their charter for recall, which is allowable by law,” Gray explained. “But for county offices, you cannot be recalled. You can be ousted for willful misconduct, neglect of duty, violating any penal statute or anything involving moral turpitude. 

“But it’s very clear that those are not to be used on a whim. … So unless those apply, there is no way that someone can be thrown out of office.”

Gary Humble, who is the CEO for David Fowler’s Family Action Council, is the main contact for Recall Williamson. Humble spelled out on the Recall Williamson's website the group’s opposition to face masks. 

“Our children deserve great schools and they deserve a quality education in a safe environment,” he said. “We believe that mandating masks to be worn by children on a daily basis is unhealthy and counterproductive to those stated goals.”

Humble responded “no comment” to a message from the Home Page.

At Monday night’s board work session, the lone member to vote against the framework was District 6 representative Jay Galbreath. Galbreath had proposed an amendment to the plan that would lessen the mask restrictions if the spread risk decreased to a medium or low level. It failed 7-5, however.

Eric Welch, District 10 representative, said he sees the value of a mask mandate in schools.

“Nothing would make me happier than to be proven wrong on the effectiveness of wearing face coverings,” he said. “If it’s eventually shown that they’re not needed and kids can go to classrooms uncovered with no significant risk of infecting each other, their teachers, or bringing a virus home to their families I will joyfully eat as much humble pie as Merridee's can bake.

“But for now, not a single consulted medical professional made that recommendation to the district. Not one. The science and research today overwhelmingly support the decisions that 11 WCS board members voted to approve.

“Mr. Humble, of course, is free to disagree and call for our removal over this issue — that’s democracy,” Welch added. “Ethically, though, he has an obligation to be transparent about which medical professionals, if any, support his views.”