FRANKLIN, Tenn. - The father of a Kindergarten student went viral this week after criticizing parents for their anti-mask views and opinions at a school board meeting in Franklin, Tennessee.
In footage from the meeting, Justin Kanew identified himself as the father of a five-year-old student and castigated other parents over their views on Critical Race Theory and masks.
"First of all, Critical Race Theory is not in our schools, and it never was, and the people here who complain about it did not know what it was six months ago and had never heard of it," Kanew said. "That’s why they’re going after diversity, equity, and inclusion instead, and trying to pretend they’re the same thing. They aren’t. And frankly, there aren’t many communities around the globe that need DEI more than this one that we live in."
The debate over masks in Williamson County schools had garnered national attention after a raucous school board meeting on August 10, during which board members heard from the public and voted in favor of a new mask mandate.
The meeting was marked by jeers and chants from anti-mask activists, and outside the meeting, crowds of demonstrators rallied in opposition to the mandate.
Once the meeting ended, mask supporters were greeted outside the building by anti-maskers chanting "we’ll not comply" and "no more masks." One demonstrator shouted there was a "place in hell" for those in favor of masks.
"On another note, I’m a dad of a new kindergartener and her first day was right after the chaos last week," Kanew continued. "She went to school, and she was one of just a few kids in her class wearing a mask, which made her ask me why she had to. My answer was: ‘Because we want to take care of other people.’ She’s five years old but she understood that concept, and it’s disappointing that more adults around her can’t seem to grasp it," he said.
The father of Williamson County criticized people claiming "religious exemptions" in order to scorn mask mandates.
"I asked a pastor friend of mine, and he was very clear there is no actual biblical justification for using the Bible to get out of a mask mandate passed by a majority of this elected board. But thousands are doing it anyway, calling it a religious exemption, which is frankly just sad," Kanew said. "Avoiding masks is not in the bible, but taking care of others is."
Williamson County Schools said on Thursday that they were "seeing an increase in the number of positive COVID cases" in their schools, and would be releasing positive case numbers on their website on Tuesday and Friday afternoons, according to Storyful.
As of August 16, 47 staff members and 276 students were in isolation with a confirmed positive case, the website said.
"Now today we have Governor Lee’s executive order to allow opt-outs, which is government overreach undercutting a local decision. If you only like democracy when it goes your way, you don’t actually like democracy," Kanew concluded.
On Thursday, August 19, following his speech, Kanew tweeted, "If we’re wrong, you wore a mask. Whoops, sorry. If you’re wrong, your kid gets sick or someone you love dies. Seems like a pretty simple choice."
Storyful contributed to this story.