The Bonita Unified Teachers Association has rebuked school board member Krista Chakmak for recent social media posts in which she apparently encouraged others to join her in refusing to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“As the Bonita Unified School District works to create a plan in which students, faculty, and staff may return to in-person learning as safely as possible, Ms. Chakmak’s publicly-stated position on pandemic safety and her encouragement that others follow suit is counterproductive and even detrimental to that mission,” the union said in a Thursday Facebook post.
The union statement went on to say its executive board “will continue to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control, as well as the wisdom and expertise of health care professionals in order to keep our students and their families safe while continuing their education.”
Chakmak, who was appointed to the Bonita Unified School District board in May 2020 and elected to her first full term in November, could not be reached for comment.
On Feb. 8, Chakmak complained on her personal Instagram account about being harassed for not wearing a mask while shopping at a Big 5 Sporting Goods store in Pomona.
“What would I like right now?” Chakmak asked, according to a screenshot of the post obtained by the Southern California News Group. “To shop without being harassed, personal choice, a peaceful experience and respect. What I want most? My children to know that I fought everyday for their rights and freedoms, to not be told what’s “best” for my personal health and the freedom to live how I want. My sons and I were followed around the store, asked several times to wear a mask “because they want everyone in the store to be comfortable also, no one was near us or even in the store.”
In a separate post, Chakmak recounted another unpleasant shopping experience involving COVID-19 mask requirements.
“Just got back from the grocery store where I have worn a mask for almost a year,” she said. “Today, no more. I have been miserable for most of the past year. I know there are so many more people feeling this also but just feel stuck, scared and like you’re going to be judged. But if we don’t start taking our power back now, this will only get worse. So, judge me, hate me, talk about me or join me! Most importantly do what ever your soul tells you to do!.”
Chakmak, who received criticism on social media for her anti-mask stance, has since apologized and removed the posts.
“In a moment of frustration, I stated that I would no longer be wearing a mask, taking back my power,” she said, according to a screenshot of the post. “After reflecting on the impact of my words, I have deleted the post. Like so many of us, I am anxious to resume our way of life that existed before the pandemic. However, I realize there are still stages to go through to reopen our school safely. I do intend to comply with state and local regulations to allow the safe reopening to happen. My words do not reflect Bonita Unified School District or our fellow board members’ opinions.”
Carl J. Coles, superintendent of the Bonita Unified School District, said Friday preparations are underway to safely reopen schools for 5,000 elementary students on April 5.
“In light of a recent private social media post by an individual board member concerning not wearing a face covering, the board of education and the district want to assure the community that we are fully committed to following all laws and rules set by our governing bodies, which includes wearing face coverings on all district properties,” he said in a statement. “Board members may participate in public discourse on civic or community interest matters and have a right to express their personal views freely. To be clear, the comments made regarding not wearing a face-covering do not represent those of the board of education or the district.”
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