Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

I Watched the entire OPRF District 200 Meeting so you don’t have to

My expectations were low. They weren’t low enough.

(The first couple of paragraphs is for those who are unfamiliar with the story. Emma Woodhouse, my new Twitter Covid Crush, posted a great thread here that is much more detailed.)

Oak Park and River Forest High School had an interesting week. Their basketball team defeated crosstown rival Fenwick last Friday night. Less than 24 hours later, some of those same players were protesting to get their season back from postponement. To win a rivalry game of that magnitude, you have to play that game like it’s going to be your last, as the cliché goes. For those players, it very well could have been.

Last Friday, OPRF decided to postpone all extracurricular activities due to an increase in Covid cases. This led to a local outrage that was expressed in a protest at the school the next day. Then, on Monday, the school reversed its decision to suspend extracurriculars, dependent on students following new mitigations including:

  • K95 or Surgical Masks for all
  • More students take their “voluntary” saliva test
  • Increased distancing measures at lunch

The D200 Board of Education then held a special meeting for further explanations on Tuesday. It was incredible.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VguTXL-Cor8&t=5115s

Above is the YouTube stream of the meeting. Right now, it only has 371 views. I’ve linked my favorite timestamps below to follow along.

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A good question arises an hour into angrily watching the D200 meeting:

“Why do you care so much?”

“Because some kids who I have coached are having their school seasons and lives ruined by people who I do not happen to agree with.” That answer still isn’t complete.

Before I go over some of my favorite moments from the meeting, it needs to be explained that the Director of the Oak Park Department of Public Health, Dr. Theresa D. Chapple-McGruder, is responsible for these decisions. This was made more evident when board members voiced their frustration from not being made aware of the announcement before it was made public.

1:17:53: “I think that people have seemed to start to believe that mental health is impacted by mitigations of the pandemic, but that's not the case, it’s the pandemic itself that is causing mental health issues.”

— Dr. Chapple

A dangerously wrong answer by someone who people consider an expert to a good question from board member/wrestling coach, Fred Arkin. She later goes on to cite “a recent study” where people who got sick from the virus are 50% more likely to have adverse mental health effects than those who did not get sick. I would love to see this study.

1:19:39: Board member Fred Arkin makes a great point about the pandemic and weight increase.

Fred Arkin talks here about how he has seen an increase in body mass in some of his high school wrestlers. It’s not just mental health that gets affected. Arkin also asked the question of the night:

1:21:16: “So I’m just wondering if we can, if there is a measure, and at what point in time do we say, ‘Alright, this pandemic is here to stay,’ and where do we go from here?” — Fred Arkin

Of course, that question wasn’t answered. Most of the best questions aren’t. He did make the classic interviewer’s mistake of asking more than one question at a time right after, but that first question deserved an answer. When is the endgame? When are we going to wave the white flag and acknowledge that this is something that isn’t going away anytime soon?

1:51:19: “One of the other things that was concerning was the amount of people who were vaccinated that had the virus. If this was all amongst unvaccinated people, there would have been a different approach that we took to mitigations here.”

— Dr. Chapple

At least we know Dr. Chapple has looked at some data. She sees what we see. 81% of students vaxxed, 73% of cases between students and teachers vaxxed. I don't take joy in people getting sick. I was rooting for that vaccine, but it let me down. It let so many others down, too.

This made her previous tweet where she bragged about vaccinating her child’s entire class look even funnier. This tweet is the current subject of an investigation, for obvious privacy violations.

1:55:50: Dr. Chapple leaves the meeting

This one could be slightly unfair. Dr. Chapple left the meeting claiming that she needed to help out her husband put their kids to bed. My future fatherly self may look back at this as a misfire, but can she give us 30 more minutes? Is this not the most important board meeting she’s ever going to have? There’s 20 year old(s?) out here watching this like it’s the season finale of Squid Game.

Is she not afraid at all of losing her job? The answer to that last question is no. Why would she be? The board loves her. They could not stop thanking her. Two examples:

1:55:42

1:24:33

2:05:59: “Are we doing everything in our legal authority and power to maximize the vaccination level of our student population? — Tom Cofsky

Tom wasn’t listening. He is still living with the pseudoscience narrative that positive cases and people vaccinated are in an indirect relationship.

2:08:22: “Can you mandate vaccination for extracurricular activity because it’s voluntary?” — Tom Cofsky

Voluntary, of course, just under the conditions we set for you…

Last clip: 10:01: “We should be ashamed of what is happening in Oak Park right now…”

This is where I got excited. The first caller was very explosive in his critique of the decisions made, and when the 2nd caller began with that, I thought that would be the theme for the meeting, I was wrong…

She continues, “This rally that occurred in the high school over the weekend can best be described as a white angry mob. Images from that rally could be held up next to images of Oak Park in the 50s, and the only thing that would look different is the quality of the camera. Grown people shouted down a black woman…”

I must warn anyone reading this that becoming critical of Dr. Chapple may get you called “racist”. Her race has been a topic of discussion on her Twitter as well as in the board meeting. It’s a poor distraction from her incompetence, considering there’s actual racism in the world. Maybe I will tweet something mean about white male Fauci later, for equality of course.

I must claim ignorance when it comes to the rally, or protest, or whatever you call those things these days. I was not there. All I have seen are online videos and photos. I found it ironic that even in a protest against medical authoritarianism, I still saw most people outside in masks. Perhaps the masks prevented them from being cold? They weren't preventing much else.

The legend of Dr. Chapple grew even greater when she snapped at the crowd that was chanting, “Let them Play” with “The way that you get to play is to let me finish.” Science!

I know that I have taken quotes from people out of context. The bigger picture of the meeting is that the board spent much more time WTFing the crowd at the rally than it did questioning the ridiculous measures set forth by Dr. Chapple. What did they expect to happen? These kids have gone through complete bullshit for the last two years, have been pawns in a political agenda disguised as public health, have continued following measures that continue to fail, just so they can play their sport or activity and hang out with their friends, and with a snap of one person’s fingers, that was taken away. Thank God I don’t have to find out how I would have reacted to this when I was 17.

The scary truth is that the ban on extracurriculars doesn’t get reversed without the rally. A few board members suggested that there is a better way to go about things and that people could have acted more civil. That may be true, I was not there, but the ban isn’t going anywhere without those people. Did the science change in 4 days? Did extracurriculars become magically safer from last Friday to last Tuesday? Those new mitigations put in place Monday already had enough data showing it helps stop the spread before the ban was lifted Tuesday? No. Because it’s not about Covid.

Do the people in Oak Park think that this is it? That this is the final act they are going to take? What are they going to do when cases rise from the increase in saliva testing? What do they think kids are going to do when they're on Christmas break? Continue to not live life?

In the original notification of the postponement, Superintendent Greg Johnson wrote that “protecting the health and safety of our entire community is our utmost priority.” As a member of the community, I would ask that OPRF stops caring about my health and safety to focus on more important things that are actually within their control.

I have become so attached to this story because it has been a microcosm of society during these last 15 days to flatten the curve. It’s the entire world, right here in Oak Park, Illinois.

The problem with the Faucis, the Chapples, the pick-your-favorite-flavors-of-The-Science of the world is that for an event to be unprecedented, there can’t be any experts. Experts are people who have a high degree of skill or knowledge in a certain subject. If the subject has not existed before, then nobody is an expert. If the subject has not existed before but something similar to it has existed, then that’s a precedent. We have two choices to avoid a logical fallacy:

We can either admit that Covid was never or is no longer unprecedented, considering the last 21 months of data as well as references to the Spanish Flu, or we can admit that Covid is unprecedented, especially due to the changing variants. If we choose the first option, we have to concede that any 20 year old with a laptop can find most of the same data that any top-level “expert” has and that the position is more about being able to read charts and graphs than a doctor. Or, we can choose the second option, where there are no experts.

Regardless, we need to question these people and refuse to keep letting them use our liberties in negotiation. I fear there is an outbreak of positive cases for Stockholm Syndrome. The experts and officials do not grant us our rights, those are granted to us from a much better place than here.

I hope the OPRF community stands up for that. I rather not live in Western Australia.

I hope the rest of the world does as well.

That’s why I care.

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Shoutout Emma Woodhouse! @EWoodhouse7 on Twitter

I have been away from doing these Medium posts for a long time to focus solely on a project that will be out sometime in the 1st or 2nd quarter of 2022. This was too important to pass up. Excited to share soon.

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Co-Creator of A Twisted History of the United States

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Charlie Westerman

Charlie Westerman

Co-Creator of A Twisted History of the United States

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