by Travis Mateer
Mike Gehl should thank Missoula County School Board members and the Missoulian for amplifying his simple refusal to mask up at last week’s school board meeting. For parents like me eager to pry control of policies from people like Grace Decker, Mike’s move, and the hilarious reaction to it, is just what we need to inspire more sane people to come forward and run for open board positions.
Today’s post is will be a blow-by-blow look at the Missoulian’s editorial. Here’s the opener:
If students in Missoula County Public Schools are looking for role models, they shouldn’t look toward trustee Mike Gehl.
Ok, kids, get ready! Missoulian publisher, Jim Strauss, and his executive editor, Jim Van Nostrand, are going to educate you about why your potential roster of role models SHOULD NOT include Mike Gehl. Forget for a moment the role of these men peddling advertisements while sculpting public opinion. We are going to find out how DEEPLY they care about your health.
The lack of respect and proverbial middle finger he showed to his fellow trustees on Tuesday, when he refused to wear a mask to an in-person school board meeting, were astonishing.
The meeting closed after four minutes, when the other trustees decided they were unwilling to put up with the maskless behavior anymore.
Obviously these men respect the quality education these kids receive in public school as they mount and ride out on their PROVERBIAL horses. Why else use such fancy language? And obviously Mike Gehl was issuing a very disrespectful MIDDLE FINGER, proverbially speaking, when he didn’t comply with mask etiquette like my kids are expected to do without question.
Notice I said “etiquette” and not “law” or “ordinance”. That’s because there is no law requiring submission to mask Nazis, a pesky fact that produces my favorite part of the op-ed:
Was he required to wear a mask? Maybe not. The Montana Legislature passed HB 501 in the last session, which says that a person who refuses to wear a mask in place that requires masks cannot be cited for criminal trespass.
We aren’t talking about criminal trespass, though. We’re talking about basic civility and respect for your colleagues. Gehl’s action appears to be a premeditated and unnecessary act of political theater. He has acknowledged that he has been asked to wear masks before, and that he has refused. Perhaps Tuesday’s drama was the explosion from a long fuse that has been burning for some time.
So, no law can be used to force mask compliance on Mike Gehl. How nice for MCPS to then try Gehl in the court of public opinion.
The problem with this move is that the court of public opinion has to include other data points and context, like the obvious theatrics of the Elsie Arntzen letter tantrum from School Board Superintendents.
A recent Missoulian article detailed the “struggle” Superintendents are having showing up to an actual meeting like they say they want.
Since the OPI received the superintendent’s letter on Dec. 7, Arntzen has made several attempts to meet with the superintendents to discuss their concerns.
Arntzen reportedly texted Upham and Moore, who represent the two largest districts in the state, the same day she received the letter. Upham responded the following day, but Moore did not, according to a timeline of correspondence provide by the OPI.
The following week, Arntzen requested individual meetings with each of the superintendents. A meeting was scheduled with Bertram and his team for mid-January, but Moore did not respond to the request.
A few days after the request for individual meetings, Watson asked to set a meeting with all the superintendents for early January. The following week Arntzen set a meeting for Ja. 6 at the Capitol with Zoom participation offered. Watson could no longer make the date work and asked to reschedule for Jan. 14.
I include all this tedious detail because it lends credence to the assertion that superintendents like Rob Watson are just playing political games, with my kids and the fabric on their face just convenient pawns for a power play to cause political damage to OPI. The meeting, in case you’re wondering, never happened (perhaps after 1/6 the word “Capitol” is PTSD triggering).
Anyway, lets return to the Missoulian’s role in providing op-ed propaganda for this larger effort to maintain control of school boards and their VERY SCIENTIFIC mask policies. Remember, Jim Strauss and Jim Van Nostrand had just concluded the last paragraph quoted with a BOMB metaphor. Nice!
He is saying that his individual rights trump the greater good, including anyone else’s desire to shield themselves from the scourge of the pandemic. A horrible message for our youth.
Yes, the bold emphasis includes the word “scourge”, a fun word that means two things: a whip used as an instrument to inflict punishment, and a person or thing that causes great trouble or suffering. The use of propaganda during this pandemic has been the most impressive assortment of coordinated mind-scourges I have ever seen, but I don’t think that’s what our mind-whippers had in mind.
Let’s continue, this is getting long.
“I’m not paid staff and you need to research the law a little better, the only people that they (the district) have legitimate control on is the students and their paid staff employees,” Gehl said in an interview with the Missoulian. “Other than that, they have no jurisdiction and the law that changed last year at the Legislature made that perfectly clear.”
“I’m not bound to follow district policy, I’m an independent,” he added.
And it’ll be longer because now the lawyers are getting involved.
Gehl is incorrect if he is saying that he does not have to follow any board policies, according to Elizabeth Kaleva, a local attorney who represents the school district.
School district trustees are expected to adopt policies and rules governing the school, she said.
“Even without the application of criminal laws, the district has the right to control the conduct of those individuals present on school property,” Kaleva said. “(Several district policies) incorporate these rights to control the conduct of visitors, which would include board members, on district properties.”
After this quote there’s some more Gehl-bashing I’ll skip over to get to this:
People run for school boards for different reasons. We hope most want to make our public schools better, not to act as an agent provocateur to undermine them.
These two op-ed’ing Jims clearly have no fucking clue what an AGENT PROVOCATEUR is. I’ll use Wikipedia to try and cure them of their ignorance:
An agent provocateur (French for “inciting agent”) is a person who commits or who acts to entice another person to commit an illegal or rash act or falsely implicate them in partaking in an illegal act, so as to ruin the reputation or entice legal action against the target or a group they belong to or are perceived to belong to. They may target any group, such as a peaceful protest or demonstration, a union, a political party or a company.
If the Jims hope to stick this label on Mike Gehl, they should bone-up on what the term actually means because I think it could more accurately apply to State Rep Danny Tenenbaum’s shady antics than Gehl’s.
The plot now is to whip-up the Covidians to mob Gehl (figuratively, I hope) with their scourges. This assumes the majority of parents are still supportive of mask mandates.
Hey, I know, maybe poll us parents on what WE THINK is best for our kids.
No, it’s been clear what parents like me are supposed to do: SHUT UP AND OBEY.
For parents like me, Mike Gehl’s refusal is VERY appreciated.