FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — While a heated debate was happening inside a Williamson County School Board meeting, a group of anti-mask protesters collected outside.
The group was seen heckling - and at some points threatening - people as they left the meeting, some of whom were doctors and nurses asking the board to reinstate the mask mandate.
In one video, captured by Matt Masters with the Williamson Home Page, several members of the group were seen following a man to his car, shouting "we will find you" and "we know who you are" at him. During the public comment portion of the meeting, the parent asked the board to reinstate a mandate.
"There is a place in hell for you guys. There is a bad place in hell and everybody's taking notes, buddy," one man yelled.
Another man is seen trying to calm the group, while also shouting "you can leave in peace, but we know who you are."
Warning: Graphic language can be heard in the video below.
At one point in the night, a Williamson County Sheriff's Office sergeant spoke to the group, asking them to remain peaceful.
“We are here for everybody’s safety, we are here for y’all just as much as we are here for everybody else. OK? We are here, we are away from our families, some of us are on a 17, almost an 18-hour day, and that’s me. So I’m here for y’all. I’m here for y’all. We want everything to be peaceful. I am begging y’all to be peaceful," he said.
Carol Birdsong with Williamson County Schools, released a statement in response to the meeting last night, stating while parents are passionate about their children's education, there is no excuse for incivility.
“Our parents are passionate about their children’s education, and that’s one of the reasons for our district’s success over the years. With that said, there’s no excuse for incivility. We serve more than 40,000 students and employ more than 5,000 staff members. Our families and staff represent a wide variety of thoughts and beliefs, and it is important in our district that all families and staff have the opportunity to be represented and respected. We will continue to work toward making sure all voices are heard and that all families, staff and community members feel safe sharing their opinions.”
On Tuesday night, the school board voted 7-3 to require masks in elementary schools for all students, staff and visitors. The policy goes into effect on August 12 and will last until at least September 21. Following that date, board members will reassess the COVID-19 case count in Williamson County to decide whether the requirement will be extended or not.
The district does not have a policy for if children show up to school without a mask, simply stating, "we will give them a mask to wear."
Pediatric COVID-19 cases
During the first three days of the school year, 25 Williamson County elementary students have contracted COVID-19, according to Superintendent Jason Golden.
Last week, Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said pediatric cases are quickly on the rise, nearly doubling from the week of July 18 to July 25.
She said hospitals started filling up in early July due to respiratory illnesses, adding that "when you add COVID hospitalizations on top of that, that’s just enough to tip the scales sometimes."
Children under the age of 12 are not yet allowed to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving them more vulnerable to contracting the virus.