The BVSD Recall is No Joke


Hannah Cohen

Pua Aki (right) and Faith Gowan counterprotested BVSD Recall’s petition gathering attempts at the Farmer’s Market on November 6th.

Eighteen months into Boulder Valley School District navigating a global pandemic & a federal government that initially was completely unprepared to handle education, a group called BVSD Recall is now taking a definitive stance on the District’s public safety measures. That is, according to the group, they’re bad. So bad, in fact, they merit launching a campaign to recall three school board members for supporting their implementation. 

The WHO, the CDC and innumerable research universities and hospitals maintain that masks are effective against the spread of COVID-19, that the vaccines are safe and effective and that children can suffer from the virus as well as pass it on to more vulnerable populations.

BVSD Recall’s claims, meanwhile, come from unreliable sources, and they propagate a narrative about how the “mainstream media outlets in general have covered only one side of the COVID-19 narrative, while systematically censoring dissenting opinions.” Their assertions range from stretches- like claiming that the CDC’s COVID-19 release fund is what’s the motivation behind the BVSD mask mandate -to genuinely untrue- like stating that vaccines weaken children’s immune system against COVID-19. The latter comes from the source “Children’s Health Defender,” which is referenced repeatedly on their website and is drenched in conspiracy (a fact that’s not surprising, given how the organization was started by notorious anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy).

According to the HBO series Last Week Tonight, a comedy show that delivers well-researched content, conspiracy theories are typically rooted in proportionality bias. It’s the idea that big events- like JFK’s assassination or the pandemic -stem from big causes, instead of from a variety of small factors and the hard-to-swallow idea of randomness. Typically, people pair ideas stemming from proportionality bias with the notion that there is one enemy out to get the common person, and their supporters (like the media or various branches of the bureaucracy) are helping to cover the enemy’s tracks. From there, people will cherry-pick facts to support the conspiracy theory in a phenomenon known as confirmation bias. “Inconvenient” facts, even if from the same sources, are discarded & seen as part of the cover-up.

BVSD Recall volunteers pushed an article from into my face like it was indisputable when I asked for sources on their claim that masks aren’t effective against COVID-19. The piece, published in 2019,  alleges that surgical masks don’t protect you from the flu. The publication has since repeatedly advised that wearing masks helps prevent COVID-19 transmission and that the COVID-19 vaccines are effective and safe. In fact, the original article states that surgical masks are effective at preventing people from spreading the flu, just not preventing them from getting it. 

It’s infuriating- if not impossible -to debate with people who will not accept that facts are facts. When BVSD Recall reads this article (and I’m fairly certain they will), they’ll accuse me of “making those who challenge the COVID-19 narrative look unhinged” and of using sources that are covering up the large government conspiracy to exert control. But it’s not just fringe groups who believe in these theories- a Kaiser Family Fund study recently found that 78% of adults had heard a false statement about the pandemic and thought it was true or were unsure of its validity.

On the surface, these claims are so absurd they’re laughable. Michael Gaeta, a registered lead on the recall, states on his personal website: “If being completely and accurately informed is important to you, you must stop listening to and reading any mainstream media.” (The Owl, reassuredly, is not mainstream). The problem is that they’re not just claiming things- they’re acting on them. 

The recall process is already in motion; currently, the group is attempting to collect the necessary 15,000 signatures by November 29th in order to generate a special election. The ballot would ask voters to reconsider the terms of three school board members who have consistently supported COVID-19 precautions (the other three who have also supported the precautions were up for election this year, and were re-elected or were replaced with candidates with similar COVID-19 platforms). Regardless of the special election outcome, BVSD would have to pay for it; according to the district, it would cost them a total of $670,000, which would have to come out of other programs and schools.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not), BVSD Recall didn’t publicly endorse voting for or against any school board candidates this November. If their platform is dedicated to having a school board that can enforce decisions about COVID-19 precautions, why didn’t they endorse candidates that would help them get there? Tina Marquis, former school board president affiliated with No BVSD Recall, states, “they either don’t believe that they can win in a normal election cycle or they’re just trying to be disruptive to distract people from the most important work, educating and supporting students.”

The BVSD Recall table attracted many visitors on Saturday, November 6th. (Hannah Cohen )

BVSD Recall is a threat to our community. It’s unclear where their money is coming from, what their true motives are, and, at the end of the day, why they’re calling for this action now. In order to prevent the full scope of damages BVSD Recall could inflict, we must rally against them. This can look like volunteering with No BVSD Recall at the Farmer’s Market every Saturday through the 29th, painting your car/putting up signs and, pivotally, not signing the petition. The saga has revealed a side of Boulder drenched in distrust in science, conspiracy and disregard for public safety. If we refuse to let the recall petition gain enough signatures, then we can signal that we are a community that values the lives of our neighbors.