Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins, who supports masks for students and school staff, shared that she was reluctant to speak about threats she and her family allegedly received because she felt unsupported. “I’ve tried not to talk about this stuff publicly,” she said in a clip posted online.
The clip, in which Jenkins shared that she felt forced to speak about her experiences and did not support the resolution in question, quickly went viral on social media.
“If we really felt that way, and wanted to support each other and make a change within our community and let our parents come and speak on both sides of the aisle—know that we’re here to support them speaking and we want to hear them—then we should come up with something for ourselves that meets the situation that we face here in Brevard, but doesn’t interject us between two organization fighting each other,” Jenkins said.
Local reports have depicted protests directed toward Jenkins due to her support of the LGBTQ community and masks in schools, but did not share details of the violence she has faced prior to her appearance Tuesday.
“I don’t reject them coming here and speaking their voice. They do it all the time. We don’t stop them from doing that. I don’t reject them standing outside my home. I reject them following me around in a car. Following my car around. I reject them saying that they’re coming for me, that I need to beg for mercy,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins noted that while she agreed with what the resolution said, the reason it was formulated makes her “uncomfortable … because it was drafted in response to a letter that was intended to keep me and my family safe and potentially you and your family safe.”
According to NBC News, the resolution to work to protect community members comes after heated debates between some members of the public and school board members over masks in schools. The Florida School Boards Association sent a letter last month requesting “federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation.”
“Local school board members want to hear from their communities on important issues and that must be at the forefront of good school board governance and promotion of free speech,” it said in a letter. “However, there also must be safeguards in place to protect public schools and dedicated education leaders as they do their jobs.”
The video of Jenkins’ comments went viral on Twitter, with many offering her support; some even commented back with their experiences, noting that Jenkins was not alone.
“It has been challenging for my family and I appreciate this overwhelming support,” Jenkins said on Twitter.
The school district Jenkins belongs to is one of eight schools included in a list that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on student mask mandates. State officials approved plans to dock administrators’ salaries at these schools and withhold funding as a result.
As of this report, the Brevard school district was given a 48-hour notice to comply with the governor’s mask mandate, or monthly withholdings will continue, with further action needed. The rule requires public schools to “allow for a parent or legal guardian of the student to opt the student out of wearing a face covering or mask at the parent of legal guardian’s sole discretion.”
Earlier this month, the Brevard school district voted 3-2 against allowing parents to opt-out of its mask mandate, which remains in place until Oct. 29. According to Florida Today, during the vote on masks, Jenkins led the effort and criticized comments by Florida Senate Majority Leader Debbie Mayfield, R-Indialantic, and Florida Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, at the annual meeting of the Brevard County state legislative delegation. Even then, audience members began shouting and creating havoc before the meeting was called to a recess.
As meetings about mask mandates in schools continue across the country, so do the threats health professionals and school board members face. Our officials, especially those in the GOP, need to step up and take responsibility for the spread of misinformation and mask bans. Without encouraging people to wear masks and get vaccinated, we will never recover from this pandemic—and violence will continue. School board members should not have to fear doing everyday activities because they support masks that will protect the children they serve.
Watch the full meeting clip below: