WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKRN) – An anti-mask protest at a Williamson County School Board meeting has caught the eye of President Joe Biden.
At a news conference Thursday, the president said he saw video showing parents heckling and threatening healthcare workers leaving the meeting after approving a mask mandate for elementary school students.
“I saw a video and reports from Tennessee of protesters threatening doctors and nurses who were before a school board making the case that to keep kids safe, there should be mandatory masks,” the president said. “And as they walked out, these doctors were threatened; these nurses were threatened. You know, our health care workers are heroes. They were the heroes when there was no vaccine. Many of them gave their lives trying to save others.”
Hundreds of parents who could not fit inside the auditorium stayed outside shouting “no more masks” during a protest. The special meeting was called as new COVID-19 cases continue to surge across Tennessee and the rest of the country.
One doctor, who was at the school board meeting but did not speak, felt targeted while wearing her mask and called the moment a “very sad day.”
“[The protesters] would get up into people’s personal space, because all of us were wearing masks. So it was very clear who we were. We might as well have had a target on our faces as well, it was poking and poking and poking…I think it is a very sad day for all of us. I’ve been a Williamson County resident and mom for 20 years, I said to my colleague that was with me, this is not the Williamson County that I know,” Dr. Jessie Hawkins said.
President Biden also praised healthcare workers for the development of three safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.
“And [healthcare workers are] heroes again with the vaccine. They’re doing their best to care for the people refusing to get vaccinated. And unvaccinated folks are being hospitalized and dying as a result of not being vaccinated. To the mayors, school superintendents, educators, local leaders, who are standing up to the governors politicizing mask protection for our kids, thank you. Thank you as well. Thank God that we have heroes like you. And I stand with you all, and America should as well,” the president said.
The mandate begins Thursday, August 12 and expires at 11:59 p.m. on September 21. Masks will be required while inside all elementary schools and buses. The school board voted 7-3 to pass the temporary mask mandate.
The temporary mask mandate allows for medical and religious exemptions and also allows teachers to remove masks when teaching from at least six feet from their students.
The school board will revisit the mask mandate at next month’s meeting. The mandate does not apply to Williamson County middle and high schools.