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ITHACA, NY -- The Ithaca City School District Board of Education addressed myriad concerns from residents who claimed the COVID vaccine is an “experimental injection,” that the school district was forcing children to get vaccinated, and that the students were part of a “study” in which some would unknowingly get placebo shots. The group also took issue with the mask requirements and claimed the disease was being far overblown, especially as it pertains to children.

Board member Erin Croyle pointed out the millions of people who have died of COVID-19 worldwide and said that the accusations hit a personal nerve with her.

“I’m talking on a very personal level when I hear people talk about how people shouldn’t wear masks and children aren’t at risk,” she said. “I’ve spent the last 15 months at home because my son is very much at risk, and shame on you for not reading about that. He is not the only child in this district at risk, there are children at risk. When we talk about comorbidities it’s as if it’s a human being’s fault that they’re at risk […] So when you talk about how this doesn’t affect children and it doesn’t matter, I’m sorry but you’re wrong and you’re not doing the research.”

She added that the mask mandates and the availability of vaccines were for the safety of children like hers.

“I’m not getting into a vaccine debate but remember that some of the sources and ‘facts’ I’ve heard [from you] are from QAnon,” she said. “One person said to let kids be kids, and yes I’d love it, but some of our kids cannot be kids if all kids don’t wear masks. You’re being selfish and forgetting about kids who are high risk. It’s ableist, it’s wrong, and remember that your world is not the only bubble that exists." 

Board member Eldred Harris clarified that the board is under the authority of the CDC, the state health department and the Tompkins County Health Department.

“When we take these positions we have to take an oath to support the constitution and the existing laws,” he said. “We’re not free agents to make these decisions. The last thing I’ll say is for those who spoke at the podium an addressed the school board as if these decisions are ours to make, you should run for these positions.”

Deputy Superintendent Lily Talcott also addressed the accusation from a resident that the school is running vaccine clinics and forcing children to get vaccinated.

“The Tompkins County Health Department is utilizing our physical spaces and their insurance provides all liability coverage,” she said. “We’re simply hosting clinics and the Health Department is running them. Caregivers do have to provide written consent.”

In answering other questions and accusations from speakers, Talcott clarified that anyone under the age of 18 getting vaccinated is receiving the Pfizer vaccine because that’s the only one approved for that age group, the Health Department is the one paying for the vaccine distribution (though they will be seeking reimbursement through FEMA), no placebo shot will be used, and all parents of children receiving the vaccine receive a full copy of the FDA’s emergency use authorization and a warning page synopsis. She added that no student is required to receive the vaccine.

One board member (with masks covering their mouths it was unclear who was speaking) pointed out that local school districts will never have the power to mandate vaccines, as that power lies with the state.

“If the state mandates it then we can’t fight that or ignore it either because it’s New York state law and we’re sworn to uphold the state law and we will not violate in either direction,” the board member said.

Board member Nicole LaFave said she empathized with the speakers’ reluctance to trust the government, especially as a Black woman, but said she got vaccinated and her children wear masks because they’re sacrifices worth making to avoid worse scenarios.

In other news

Student representative Adam Saar presented survey results to the board that found 53% of 160 respondents who identify as women said they have experienced sexual harassment or assault at school within ICSD, while 24% of the 112 who responded that did not identify as women they have too.

He added that an anonymous form was also sent out for people to share their experiences, and he said a number of students said they reported the situation to an adult but no measures were taken to prevent it from happening again.

“Clearly these numbers and stories show how prevalent sexual harassment and assault is at ICSD,” Saar said. “This is a tragedy, and we think there’s a clear way to combat it in the future.”

Saar suggested expanding consent education for elementary and muddle schoolers, and also requested in-depth education, especially for boys, on sexual harassment and consent.

“I think it should be incorporated into the social and emotional curriculum so students can learn from a young age what is acceptable and what is not OK,” he said.

Board member Sean Eversley Bradwell said that there is curriculum for students from Pre-K through 12th grade that talk about forms of consent in different ways, examining boundaries and respecting people’s bodies.

“I firmly agree we can expand consent education,” he said. 

Croyle said it also seemed like a good place for professional development with teachers. Overall the board was receptive to the idea and said it would reach out to unions, educators and administrators.

(10) comments

Aleta Coggin

This article is exactly what I would expect from this liberal rag. Rather than citing the genuine concern of the speakers for the children in our community, sharing the data that they provided, and citing their highly credible sources, the journalist choose instead to portray speakers as reckless and radical.

A true disgrace, however I should not have expected a balanced and fair write up of the meeting from The Ithaca Times.

Taylor Johnson

Liberal rag???? Why is it EVER ok to call ANYONE a rag??? I couldn’t get past your first sentence because of how offensive you were. You are entitled to your opinions, but so is everyone else. And I clearly do not see this reporter calling anyone any offensive names. On top of which did you think maybe your idea of credible is not the same as other people’s ideas of credible? YOU should be highly ashamed of your words and behavior and see how much of a disgrace YOU are. As my mother says, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing AT. ALL.

Aleta Coggin

I was not referring to an "ANYONE" in particular genius, but rather the publication that is clearly reporting on sided view of the Board Meeting that took place.

Henry Kramer

There is no such thing as a zero risk world. The vaccine issue is part of a long running balancing of public health concerns and protecting the majority with individual freedom. No vaccine is 100% effective and few diseases have been totally eradicated. There will always be a few high risk people. But, we can't go around wearing masks and imposing on the vast majority restrictions for the benefit of the very few. Getting the balance right is the problem. Now as we approach herd immunity, compulsory vaccination in the schools may be necessary. There may be room for a few with religious objections to refuse, but this society needs to get back to the normal background risk level. The Regents will decide at some point on compulsory vaccination and any exceptions.

Elisabeth Hegarty

I no longer have a child of school age. However, if I did, I would not permit that child to attend school unless both teachers and other students were fully vaccinated. Despite present stability re infection in this area, there may be variants coming down the pike. Don't take a chance. Vaccinate everyone and require it for school attendance.

Isis Tierra

This is literally absurd. First of all, you have not done scientific research if you think masks are useful or anything short of toxic and counterproductive. Second, you answer to the CDC (and who are they to us? Strangers with global depopulation plans?) and vow to uphold the constitution yet the CDC is blatantly and repeatedly transgressing rights supposedly guaranteed by the constitution. Third, if this is a double blind placebo study, you wouldn’t know if they’re receiving placebos or not. On top of that this article is obviously propaganda because the perspectives of the miserably uninformed school board are represented whereas the irrefutable facts presented by those who spoke against injecting children with or without their consent with an experimental injection that droves of scientists and doctors are warning against, are barely covered at all.

Way to follow the propaganda and participate in a global genocide throwing children under the bus for absolutely no logical or sound reason at all.

If you are not familiar with the Tuskegee study, get familiar.

To the school board, if you don’t get out of the way and preserve the safety of children whose equally uninformed parents trust the recommendations of the school board, prepare to be sued and overthrown.

Isis Tierra

Are you only posting pro vaxx comments? Definitively propaganda. Biased journalism is utterly useless and dangerous.

Aleta Coggin


Aleta Coggin

This article is exactly what I would expect from this liberal rag (The Ithaca Times that is). Rather than focusing on the genuine concern that the speakers express for the children in this community, the data that they provided and citing their highly credible sources, the journalist choose instead to portray speakers as reckless and radical.

A true disgrace, however I should not have expected a balanced and fair write up of the Board Meeting from The Ithaca Times.

Richard Ballantyne

Whatever happened to "my body my choice"? So it is OK for a woman in NY to kill her 8 month old baby in her womb, but it is not ok for someone to refuse an experimental vaccine that uses new technology with no longitutinal studies? That is logically inconsistent.

I cringe whenever I hear any of the current school board members boast about upholding the U.S. Constitution. I wonder if any of them have even read the whole thing, understand it, or appreciate it. The Constitution is all about restricting Federal government power and ensuring that We The People retain our God given individual liberty, which includes freedom to decide what substances we introduced or not introduced into our own bodies. Those who signed the Constitution favored limited government and free markets, yet the school board favors big government and government monopoly in education; teachers unions, no school vouchers, less competition in education, no school choice, etc.

Also, why didn't the Times create a separate story for the sexual harassment poll? I wonder how many women who claimed they were harassed did so simply because they received a compliment from a man, such as, "You're beautiful". It is so dangerous to be a dating man these days because all a woman has to do to destroy your life is allege that you harassed or sexually abused her when you didn't. Early in a relationship men must now record all private interactions with the women they date in order to protect themselves. The sad thing is, women who falsely claim victimhood may end up effectivly diverting help and attention from real victims who actually need/deserve it. Since everything is racist now, the word "racist" has lost its meaning. A similar thing is happening with the word "harrassment." The corruption of our language is dangerous and bad. This is especially true when the definitions being changed are for words that are used in laws. This laws are getting changed and misinterpreted over time without a vote.

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