Kenosha school mask vote threats, groups call for unity

A coalition of teachers, parents and more in Kenosha said Tuesday, Sept. 14 it's time to come together after Kenosha Unified School District Board of Education members received threats stemming from a vote on masks.

The board voted to require masks be worn inside all school buildings, like Bradford High School just before the school year started. On Tuesday night, a handful of groups came together to say they shouldn't be attacked for trying to keep students safe.

With signs planted across the lincoln park in Kenosha, a coalition of groups including the Kenosha Education Association, faith leaders and parents called for the community to set its differences aside and put the safety of the district's nearly 20,000 students first.

"We must do what we can to keep our children, our teachers and our families safe," said Arturo Martinez, Forward Latino director.

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"While we may not agree on everything, we have a responsibility to find ways to collaborate for the greater good of everyone," said Kendra Koeppen-Mulwana, Kenosha Education Association executive director.

Tuesday's event came nearly three weeks after the Kenosha Unified School District board met virtually to decide on COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming school year, voting 5-2 in favor of requiring masks again despite a flurry of public comments against it.

"You have woken a sleeping giant, and if you vote against us and you vote to put mask mandates in place, you can expect the recall papers to be filed in the morning," said a board meeting participant.

Since then, the groups said school board members have received threats just for trying to keep students in class and safe. Tuesday's event was a show of support for those willing to serve the community, especially during a time of divisiveness.

"We appreciate them," said Lisa Guerrero, Parents for Safety and Equity. "We need them. We applaud them, and we are very fortunate to have individuals who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in – keeping our community safe."

The Kenosha Education Association also says outside groups are trying to persuade parents to keep their kids out of class Friday. That's when the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction takes attendance at all public schools and uses that data to allocate state money to school districts. A severe drop in attendance could cost the district come budget time.

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