The people behind Clarence Watchdog would like to issue a statement regarding a statement regarding the Clarence Central School District Board Meeting, which was held on August 30, 2021.
1. While no speaker explicitly identified themselves as “speaking on behalf of Clarence Students First”, it was clear from various Facebook posts that the individuals who belong to and follow the public and locked, private Clarence Students First groups were in attendance and spoke. Clarence Students First, as an offshoot of the regionwide DiPietro-aligned entity, has been at the forefront of school board agitation and disruption over Covid-related closures last year, and quarantines and mask-wearing this year. When a large contingent of parents comes to insult, threaten, and condescend to the board about following a statewide mask mandate, it is no surprise what group is part of that agitation. It is most notable here that the only winner out of Students First’s aligned and/or proxy groups’ several lawsuits has been the law firm it retains. The rest of us may not be able to see what’s going on with your top-secret clique, but we’re not stupid or gullible, either.
2. Pete Harding, a January 6th insurrectionist who is currently under arrest and out on bail, awaiting trial for federal crimes in the U.S. District Court for D.C., appeared at the very end of this school board meeting to deliver an “attaboy” to the anti-mask, Covid-denying people who all claimed that masks harm children, don’t protect against Covid, and are tantamount to child abuse. He used the first person plural in referring to efforts that he threatened would continue to take place – supposed criminal or civil liabilities and penalties that the Board of Education would face if it continued requiring masks or vaccinations, notwithstanding the fact that vaccinations are already required. It doesn’t really matter whether Pete Harding is “affiliated” with any of the myriad “Students First” organizations – his thoughts, words, deeds, and threats are all indistinguishable from those of the people who do claim such affiliation. The undeniable fact is that Students First has an ally in Pete Harding and vice-versa.
3. WNY Students First is in no position to encourage or condone who does and does not speak at a BOE meeting anywhere, given that it is not, in fact, a board of education and does not set or enforce the rules of any BOE.
4. WNY Students First claims to be “nonpartisan” but this is not borne out by facts. It has aligned itself with people like ultra-right wing Assemblyman David DiPietro, whose upcoming political fundraiser will supposedly be setting proceeds aside for Students First. We have no idea whether this is in any way violative of Students First’s 501c4 status, but the idea that the group is “nonpartisan” is absurd on its face.
5. Contrary to your statement, Pete Harding the insurrectionist’s tone and demeanor were in no substantive or stylistic way different from the “rest of the speakers.” One man yelled and ranted about a “plandemic” and that “no one is getting Covid” and that quarantines are “Nazi shit.” One woman attacked teachers for having the audacity to ask that kids wear their masks properly in class. Please don’t urinate on our legs and tell us it’s raining.
6. Is this one about us? We think it’s about us. Nobody here stands against parent voices except for “Students First”. Why do we say this? Because “parent choice” over masking (or otherwise treating Covid as if it doesn’t exist) is a blatant usurpation of the choice of parents who do take it seriously. If parents, en masse, decide that they will send their unvaccinated children to school unmasked, Covid will spread. Kids will pass it to each other, and to adults with whom they come into contact. It’s happening now down south. How does the “choice” of one parent to completely disregard the advice of doctors, (thereby adversely affecting others), honor the concomitant “choice” of the parents who do not wish to spread or contract the virus? Your “choice” ends the second it harms us. We have seen the posts and tweets from members and putative leaders of Students First and its various sub-groups, allies, and proxies, and we think that this particular point is nothing more than a lot of projection. I mean, we’re not suing anyone. We’re not demanding special treatment. We are countering the misinformation and malign demands of your groups. If “trust, integrity, and accountability are the key to a healthier, more inclusive district,” then stop acting as if it’s no big deal for kids to get sick from Covid. (Given the Students First membership’s frequent pivoting into anti-CRT agitation, this cri de coeur for “inclusivity” has a more than just a tinge of irony).
Students First purports to provide “students and families an organized and active voice regarding the education of students within their districts” but has a really really massive problem when it is faced with even the most gentle pushback or dissent. The Board of Education is specifically elected for this stated purpose, so something else is afoot. Students First has routinely and relentlessly attacked the superintendent, members of the board individually, the Department of Health, the Governor, the County Executive, the Health Commissioner, other parents who disagree, and people who leave dissenting comments on their various and sundry Facebook pages and groups. It takes a lot of chutzpah for Students First to whine about its supposed good intentions and kind inclusivity while it’s filing lawsuit after lawsuit and asking when will our kids just “be allowed to get sick again“