Opinion | Engage with your local school board

Iowa School boards are in danger of being taken over by conspiracy-driven partisans. We need to respond.


Bryon Houlgrave/The Register via

Kimberly Reicks of Ankeny speaks against a mask mandate which the Ankeny School Board voted in favor of during a meeting at Ankeny Centennial High School in Ankeny on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. 20210921ankenyschoolboardmtg

Peyton Downing, Opinions Columnist

Let’s take a step away from the national spotlight for a moment. We need to talk about our local school boards — something that not everyone has a material interest in and even less of a personal interest in. But there is one group that has taken a brand new, drastic interest in school boards — anti-mask conservatives. And they shouldn’t be the only ones.

All across the country, from Virginia to California, school boards have been flooded by anti-mask protesters with just one goal — to make sure our schools are plague-ridden messes for the sake of a political football.

But first, we should take their claims at face value. For example, let’s talk about the Iowa Mama Bears, led by Kimberly Reicks and Emily Peterson. They can be seen in videos of Ankeny school board meetings talking about the abuse they feel their children are suffering at the hands of mask mandates.

Most notable is how one of the mothers said that their child has a disability and that they deserve their right to an education — a phenomenal concept considering they already have that right. In fact, children with disabilities are of the utmost concern for school boards. Protecting the health of children with disabilities is the exact reason why the Ankeny school board said that it would mandate masks.

If a child is unable to wear a mask due to their disability, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines have already recommended exemptions for them in mandates.

But children with disabilities oftentimes have health complications that put them at greater risk from COVID-19, thus needing masks to keep them safe.

But we shouldn’t let measly facts get in the way of Reicks and Peterson. After all, this isn’t the first time they would be on the wrong side of things. The Daily Iowan did a great fact check earlier this summer regarding these two. Here are some of the most interesting truths that our reporters dug up:

No. 1: Reicks and Peterson believe in a grand conspiracy that the COVID-19 pandemic was planned.

While they don’t identify as anti-vaccine, they share misinformation about the vaccine and claim to be “ex-vax.”

They don’t openly admit to believing in QAnon, but they are associated with a wide number of believers in the conspiracy and some tenants of it, including conspiracy theories about sex trafficking rings.

If we were to remove all background information on these two, take them at their word, and judge them solely on their claims made at school board meetings, they would still be wrong.

They’ve claimed that children can get staph infections from masks — no evidence supports such claims.

No. 2: Schools with mask mandates have fewer outbreaks, and pediatric cases rise in counties where schools don’t have them.

The American Academy for Pediatrics and the CDC both state that it is important for schools to address ways to ensure the safety of children in schools — the no. 1 way of doing that is by wearing masks.

The dangerous agenda put forth by these people has led to the deaths of children before, and the material outcome of their beliefs and actions will only lead to more harm.

The children of school board members are being harassed by people in this movement. The National School board association is begging the government for help because some actions against local board members border on terroristic threats.

And this is just the start. We have people running for school boards who want their school district to “look white,” and people who have threatened to shoot up schools are filing to run.

We all need to keep an eye on school boards because, otherwise, we’re going to see places across the nation fall to an astroturfed conservative campaign down the line — if there are even still healthy children left to teach after they get their way.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.