ANOTHER VIEWPOINT: An attack on civil discourse


(Logansport) Pharos-Tribune

If there were any doubts about civil discourse being under attack, one would need to look no further than the Logansport School Corporation board meeting earlier this week.

Evan Gay, a senior at Logansport High School, attended the meeting on Tuesday to sing an a capella version of the national anthem with his two brothers. While standing in the hall listening to a debate about COVID-19 and mask mandates featuring some misinformation from other speakers, he became compelled to speak up.

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with the mask mandate,” he said. “It’s not good we have sunk to this level of pseudoscience. We talk about the facts. We talk about the feelings, but masks do work.”

And then the heckling began. Adults made buzzer sounds and shouted at him to recheck his facts while school board members asked the adults to let the teen speak without interruption.

The meeting was expected to be contentious, as the board was slated to vote on updating COVID-19 protocols. It was hijacked by mask opponents 20 minutes into the proceedings, when Superintendent Michele Starkey’s contract came up for discussion. Two men stood at the podium intent on making the topic about COVID-19 and masks.

The embarrassing behavior from some of the adults in the room is not just limited to school board meetings in Logansport.

School boards across the country have been dealing with increasing pressure from parents and others surrounding pandemic restrictions and mandates. On Monday, a school board member at the Lewis Cass School Corporation resigned, citing an increasing pressure from parents to be partisan.

Despite the heckling toward Gay at the Logansport school board meeting on Tuesday, the 17-year-old kept speaking with purpose and did not let the comments bother him. If those jeering took the time to listen, maybe some positive discussion could result.

“I think that masks are the way to go,” said Gay, who plans to attend Purdue University next fall to study anthropology. “They show solidarity that we can work together. Humans have been wearing masks forever. We have been getting vaccines – you have to get vaccines to get into elementary school. So I think when we follow the science that is backed by numerous organizations and health care professionals, I think we can work together to create a safer environment.”

Wise words from a smart young man with a bright future.

Logansport School Corporation Superintendent Michele Starkey was proud to see one of her students stand up and speak out during a challenging situation.

“That’s what we are trying to cultivate here,” she said at the meeting. “Well-rounded students who graduate from Logansport High School can go off into the world and do whatever they want to do. Part of being successful is having the confidence to do that. It took a lot of confidence for a 17-year-old to get up in front of a group to speak his mind, especially when he is going against a lot of what is being said.”

His age made him one of the younger people at the board meeting, but his courage to speak up and deliver his message made him one of the more mature people in the room.