Jori Nelson, a Prairie Village City Councilmember and elementary school teacher in the Shawnee Mission School District, has deleted a series of Facebook posts that critics said were intended to “mask shame” children.
Neil Melton, a former Republican candidate for the Kansas legislature and the co-founder of the Northeast Johnson County Republicans, last week posted multiple screenshots of Nelson’s posts on his own Facebook account. The images show children not wearing face masks and not appearing to be socially distanced, clustered together or walking in groups along sidewalks and in outdoor spaces.
“You are not keeping your kids safe … so we in turn their teachers will be unsafe in a few weeks,” Nelson wrote in one of the posts. “Your concern for our health and well being is underwhelming. 6 feet of social distancing? Masks? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? We have no business going back into buildings when this is occurring outside of school. Thanks.”
Melton’s post asks for children to be left out of “everything that’s going on in the world,” calling Nelson’s posts “a new low.”
“The mask shaming is real y’all,” Melton wrote on his Facebook post.
Nelson did not respond to multiple requests for an on-the-record comment for this story. The original posts, along with Nelson’s Facebook account itself, appear to have been deleted.
In the screen shots of Nelson’s posts shared by Melton, the faces of the children are blurred out, but Melton claims the children’s faces in Nelson’s original post were not blurred out. Comments on Melton’s post mostly criticize Nelson, comparing the posts to bullying.
Some commenters call for Nelson to be fired from her teaching job for posting images of underage children without their parents’ consent.
David Smith, chief communications officer for the Shawnee Mission School District, provided the following statement regarding Nelson’s posts:
“We do not have a specific policy related to posts for district staff/employees, for times when school is not in session, when they are not using school equipment, and when the individuals being impacted are not specifically identified as Shawnee Mission School District students.”
This all comes as the Shawnee Mission School District is finalizing plans for reopening schools after Labor Day. Officials with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment were set to meet with superintendents of the six Johnson County public school districts on Tuesday afternoon to offer final recommendations for reopening schools.
The county’s “gating criteria” for school reopening include tracking the 14-day rolling average of the percent of positive tests, as well as the trend line in new cases.
As a Prairie Village City Councilmember, Nelson introduced a proposal in May that would have required residents and visitors to wear face masks in public spaces. The city council rejected the proposal later that month, deeming it to be an overreach that would be too difficult to enforce.
Ashley Freburg, Prairie Village public information officer, said it is not the city’s practice to weigh in on councilmember opinions. Freburg said individual councilmember opinions are not representative of the entire city council and should not be seen as an official city statement.