By Joshua Bay
A Bonita Unified School District board member’s anti-mask stance won’t stand.
After several days of online debate over Krista Chakmak’s social media posts, the BUSD Board of Education held a special meeting on Feb. 16 and unanimously voted to affirm compliance with all COVID-19 health and safety mandates.
“We don’t get to pick or choose what laws and regulations to support, even those we most strongly disagree with. I don’t like masks any more than most people, but I wear one to help protect my family and my community,” said Governing Board Member Glenn Creiman during the meeting.
The meeting was called after Bonita Unified Governing Board Member Krista Chakmak declared her opposition to wearing a face mask in public and encouraged others to follow her lead in posts to her private social media account.
“I’ve had many family members and friends contract COVID-19 and several die, so I take this very seriously,” Creiman said.
Resolution 2021-13 declared the statements made by Chakmak on her personal social media account do not represent the position of the board or BUSD. The resolution also encouraged board members to conduct themselves in a “respectful, courteous, and professional manner and to model good behavior for district students and the community” when participating on social networks, blogs and other online discussion platforms.
Prior to the board meeting, Bonita Unified Teachers Association released a statement condemning Chakmak’s social media posts.
Community members emailed over 50 comments voicing their concerns about the incident to the board prior to the meeting.
Some BUSD parents, like La Verne resident Karen Cockrell, supported Chakmak, asserting, “at this point, it is nothing more than cyberbullying.”
“I want you to know our family stands with Krista Chakmak. Her feelings represent our family. I don’t feel others have been brave or realistic enough to stand up and say what she has,” Cockrell wrote.
Heidi Henry, who identified herself as a BUSD parent and a teacher in another school district suggested people “take a look from within before judging someone else.”
“I go to church twice a week in person with no mask. Is someone going to report me to my district and make my life a living hell and undermine all of my hard work and dedication to my students? I bet there are people reading this that do not wear masks every time they step out of their house or personally know someone that doesn’t,” Henry wrote.
Byron Brummer, a San Dimas resident and parent of two children in BUSD, expressed his concerns about Chakmak’s words and actions.
“Public officials, and most especially elected officials, have the clear duty and responsibility that does not end when they leave their desks for the day,” Brummer wrote.
San Dimas High School drumline coach and San Dimas resident Amanda Frausto also wrote to share her concerns about the statement Chakmak released via Instagram on Feb. 11, which Chakmak later retracted after facing criticism from the community.
“I do not agree with BUSD Board Member Krista Chakmak and her recent request for people to join her in no longer wearing a mask in public during the pandemic. These words carry great weight coming from a community leader and actively undermines Bonita’s plans to reopen our schools safely and responsibly … Her apology is not enough to assure me and the community that she will make the best choices for our schools,” Frausto wrote.
Chakmak also spoke at the meeting, saying: “After doing some serious reflection, I would like to apologize for letting emotions get the best of me and airing my grievances regarding the current period we’re all living through on social media. We’re all going about these times in our own way, but as a community leader and elected official I can do much better in how I present my message.”
“Despite my consistent commitment to the health and safety of our community, my recent sentiments have obviously drawn the anger of many residents, officials and colleagues. To those residents in the community who are displeased with the way I choose to live my life, raise my children and mitigate a pandemic, I am listening to you, I hear you and I look forward to furthering our dialogue.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several studies have confirmed the necessity of universal masking, which helps reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs or sneezes, including those who have COVID-19 but feel well. The Los Angeles County Health Department has stated that cloth face coverings are not a substitute for existing guidance about social distancing, frequent hand washing and staying home when ill. However, the department also says masks may be helpful when combined with these primary interventions.
“I have served those dying and dead from COVID-19. Mrs. Chakmak has not. We are all tired, but we are alive and hope is on the way as we get enough vaccinated to achieve herd immunity,” wrote Raymond McDonald, a hospital chaplain and San Dimas resident.