Tennessee Dad's Passionate Speech About Masks in Schools Goes Viral: 'Take Care of Other People'

"Avoiding masks is not in the bible, but taking care of others is," said Justin Kanew, the father of a kindergartner in Franklin

Justin Kanew
Justin Kanew. Photo: Williamson County Television

A Tennessee dad is urging his fellow parents to stop fighting their school district's mask mandate and to protect their kids.

Last week, the Williamson County Board of Education in Franklin approved a temporary mask mandate for students, staff and visitors in elementary schools to deal with the rising COVID-19 cases in the area. Anti-mask protesters responded by heckling and catcalling during the meeting before spilling out to the parking lot, where they verbally attacked and threatened people who supported the mandate.

At the next meeting, Justin Kanew, the father of a 5-year-old girl, called out the protesters in a speech that has since gone viral, with more than 1.1 million views on Twitter.

"I'm the dad of a new kindergartner and her first day was right after the chaos last week," he started, referring to the protestors. "She went to school and was one of just a few kids in her class wearing a mask, which made her ask why she had to. My answer was because we want to take care of other people."

"She's 5 years old but she understood that concept, and it's disappointing that more adults around here can't seem to grasp it."

Kanew then questions people using religion as an excuse for refusing masks.

"I asked a pastor friend of mine and he was very clear that there was no actual biblical justification for using the bible to get out of a mask mandate passed by a majority of this elected board," he said. "But thousands are doing it anyway, calling it a religious exemption, which is frankly just sad. Avoiding masks is not in the bible, but taking care of others is."

Kanew, who ran as the Democratic nominee for Congress in Tennessee's 7th district in 2018, also went after Gov. Bill Lee's recent executive order that allows parents in the state to opt out of school mask requirements for their kids.

"Now today we have Governor Lee's executive order to allow opt-outs, which is government overreach undercutting a local decision," Kanew said. "If you only like democracy when it goes your way, you don't actually like democracy."

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status, given new evidence on the delta variant.

COVID-19 cases in children have "steadily increased" since the beginning of July, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics, with 121,427 new infections in just the last week. Children now make up 18% of all COVID-19 cases in the country.

Tennessee is currently seeing some of the highest numbers of new COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with a record 12,909 new infections on Aug. 16, according to The New York Times. With just 40% of Tennesseans fully vaccinated against the virus, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 are also on the rise, and the state has only 6% of ICU beds remaining.

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