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Numerous parents as well as a couple of students and some citizens blasted Bedford County Public Schools on various topics, including how unmasked students with exemptions are allegedly isolated, intimidated and treated like prisoners.

They let the board know how they felt at Bedford County Public Schools’ board meeting Thursday.

The following is only one of many people who spoke at the board meeting. See the Sept. 15 issue of the Smith Mountain Eagle newspaper for much more.

Michelle Madrill

Michelle Madrill, speaking for the group Moms for Liberty, started by saying she hadn’t been able to hear the preceding speakers because “a public meeting is not open to all the public.”

“I would like to request a bigger venue for future meetings so that we can all listen,” she said.

She summarized the events and decisions going back and forth on mask policy leading up to the start of school. Moms for Liberty submitted a FOIA request and obtained emails between board members. She read some of those emails, including board member Susan Mele’s, that allegedly called the reasoning behind the board’s decision to waive mask requirements “a lame argument.” Mele allegedly wrote in favor of reversing that decision and added, “God bless America, common sense prevails.”

Additionally, Madrill recapped how in the Aug. 12 meeting of the board, member Martin Leamy stated that he had not been informed about the plans to reverse the board’s decision. Board member Marcus Hill requested that religious exemptions (which even the governor’s mandate allowed for) be offered, but he was allegedly ignored.

Chairman Jason Johnson was quick to cut off Madrill at the three-minute mark, but because she was speaking on behalf of an organization, by the board’s own policy, she gets five minutes to speak.

“What is the real motivation of the school board? Is it the health and safety of the students and abiding by the will of the parents who elected them, or is it the threat of legal action?” she asked.

“Hundreds of medical and religious exemptions were submitted by parents at the beginning of school,” she said. “In fact, 241 letters were submitted at Forest Middle School alone. These have subsequently been rejected in various fashions, and even students with substantial documentation from doctors … are being told that they are still required to mask in the hallways and common areas. Please tell me at what point a superintendent, principal or school nurse’s review of a student’s medical information supersedes that of a child’s own physician?”

She explained that the organization’s objective was to point out “the overreach of (Superintendent Dr. Marc) Bergin’s authority in compliance with Richmond politics instead of the will of the Bedford community at large.”

Find out more in the upcoming issue of the Smith Mountain Eagle newspaper. If subscribed, view the e-edition version of the article this upcoming Wednesday at www.smithmountaineagle.com/eedition. If not subscribed, pick up a print edition or subscribe at www.smithmountaineagle.com/subscriber_services.

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