OPINION — Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
I recently watched Rapid City’s NBC television affiliate’s live stream of the Rapid City School Board meeting. During the meeting, it appeared a majority of school board members were trying to find ways to meet without notifying the public. (Be suspicious of politicians who wish to do your business without your knowledge.) It also appeared they were trying to establish conditions under which board members could speak to the press.
The meeting was mostly about mask and vaccine mandates in the city’s public school system. NBC’s sound feed was not good and much of the meeting was difficult to understand what people were saying and what the board was voting on. But it was clear that many of the people who were commenting on the live stream were in favor of mask and vaccine mandates, while the majority of the board was not.
When the topic turned to the media, I commented that if the board was actually trying to find ways to avoid notifying the public (and the press) of their “emergency” meetings, that such a move should be challenged in court and that the South Dakota Press Association should be contacted to find a First Amendment attorney familiar with the state’s open meetings laws.
One individual thought there was no need to contact the press association or an attorney. You don’t need a lawyer to file a lawsuit, he said. I retorted that he would need a lawyer to win such a lawsuit. Then the conversation went from the media back to masks and vaccines. But the individual still wanted to sue the board.
We have a First Amendment right to have our kids go to a safe public school, he said. I then retorted that the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee his children’s safety. Then I added that the fact he did not know his children’s safety is not protected by the First Amendment is proof of why a lawyer is required.
It was starting to become clear that this individual was Facebook educated. I’m active on Facebook, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from social media, it’s that there’s an expert on every page of every platform. PhDs in Twitter are a dime a dozen.
If you are depending on social media for information you will use to negotiate your way through life in these interesting times, you are at a disadvantage to skeptics and cynics.
The First Amendment protects exactly what it says it protects, and nothing more. Your children’s safety in public school is protected by local ordinance, your school system’s policies and by your state’s criminal code. The affect of mask and vaccine mandates on your child’s health and safety can be argued both for and against. The courts will be full of these arguments for the foreseeable future.
No matter the outcomes of those cases, one can be sure that social media will be full of misinformation (lies) about the benefits or hazards of masks and vaccines. That’s not a particularly bold prediction since social media is already full of lies about the effectiveness of masks and vaccines.
In today’s peculiar political environment, it’s hard to understand why anyone would be against allowing the school superintendent to decide when and where students will wear masks. And, students in South Dakota’s public schools are already required to have numerous vaccines. It makes no sense not to require students who can safely take the vaccine, to take the shot.
If you don’t trust the board of education, or the media, or the scientists, or the teachers, or the superintendent, or the politicians, do the responsible thing and ask your pediatrician what he or she thinks. Then, ask yourself, of what value is it to your pediatrician to put your child in danger? Then, do what they suggest.
Michael Sanborn writes from Rapid City.
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