Parents meet with state Senator Ann Rivers over masks in schools

More than 100 arrived at Felida Park, seeking input, with many expressing their views

Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers spoke, listened, and answered questions from parents for almost 30 minutes at Felida Park on Thursday, then remained at the park for more than hour talking individually with those who had more questions.

The main topic: Children, and how school districts and state leaders have been treating children during the pandemic.

Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers (R-18th District) speaks to a gathering at Felida Park on Thursday. The senator was there for an informational meeting, hoping to empower parents who feel left out of the process in regard to how the state and school systems are treating children during the pandemic. Photo by Paul Valencia
Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers (R-18th District) speaks to a gathering at Felida Park on Thursday. The senator was there for an informational meeting, hoping to empower parents who feel left out of the process in regard to how the state and school systems are treating children during the pandemic. Photo by Paul Valencia

“There’s a lot of cynicism among parents because parents are looking at the data. And the decisions that are being made by leaders don’t really reflect the data,” said Rivers, a Republican who represents the 18th Legislative District.

“I trust parents. I trust parents to keep their children safe,” she added.

A parent noted that Evergreen Public Schools never fully opened this school year, remaining at two days a week. Other parents showed their disgust with plans for having children wearing masks not just now but next school year, as well. And there was a brief discussion on Critical Race Theory being taught in schools. Rivers reminded the group that she voted against that bill.

“All of this stuff that we’re doing is creating deeper division,” she said.

The senator asked folks to get involved by building respectful relationships with school board members.

The gathering, which became much larger than organizers anticipated, grew louder for the last part of Rivers’ public statements. 

“We want action. What are you going to do?” a voice called out at Rivers.

“Part of what I am here today is to empower you to take action,” Rivers said. “Because one of me is pretty good. A whole bunch of you is even better.”

In what was supposed to be a small gathering grew to more than 100 people when Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers spoke to parents about children having to wear masks at school and other pandemic measures. Photo by Paul Valencia
In what was supposed to be a small gathering grew to more than 100 people when Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers spoke to parents about children having to wear masks at school and other pandemic measures. Photo by Paul Valencia

A woman in the crowd stood on a picnic table and gave a passionate plea about rights, laws, and the constitution. That ended the public speaking event with Rivers, but Rivers remained at the park for another hour, talking to dozens of people who wanted to have their voices heard.

“I think what we saw here today was the frustration that parents are feeling,” Rivers said. “They feel like they have no control.”

Rivers added it is the responsibility of elected officials to meet with people, try to give them the best information available, and to empower them to be advocates for their families and communities. 

“My responsibility is to be here. My responsibility is to help educate. My responsibility is to carry the message to my colleagues and the governor. And it is my responsibility to let them know I care about them,” Rivers said. “I care about what they care about, and I’m working on their behalf.”

Interestingly, Rivers said she thought it was just going to be her and a handful of parents, maybe a dozen, getting to know each other while their children played in the park.

In fact, three of the organizers — Mary Curtis, Alyssa Curran, and Emily Porter — all were surprised when more than 100 people showed up to the event.

“We have a wonderful group, and it caught like a wildfire,” Curtis said. 

Mary Curtis and Alyssa Curran were two of the organizers for Thursday's informational meeting with Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers. Curtis, Curran, and Emily Porter (not pictured) said they are grateful that Rivers showed up to meet with everyone. Photo by Paul Valencia
Mary Curtis and Alyssa Curran were two of the organizers for Thursday’s informational meeting with Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers. Curtis, Curran, and Emily Porter (not pictured) said they are grateful that Rivers showed up to meet with everyone. Photo by Paul Valencia

She said she, and those like her, feel like they are under the thumb of big government. They want the local government to decide issues such as masks for students and social distancing in the schools. And if liberties are taken away, Curtis wants government leaders to explain why. 

“We feel there should be a choice. We are not against people wearing masks. We are against being forced to do something that is not … sensical,” Curtis said.

The organizers also felt bad for Rivers when the crowd grew and did seem to become a bit adversarial. Compared to what has taken place at other gatherings in the last year in regard to political rallies and/or protests, this appeared tame to most observers.

Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers spent more than an hour talking to people individually after her public remarks at an information event at Felida Park on Thursday. Photo by Paul Valencia
Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers spent more than an hour talking to people individually after her public remarks at an information event at Felida Park on Thursday. Photo by Paul Valencia

Still, it did go beyond what organizers had hoped.

“It’s an informational meeting. That was the intent,” Curran said.

“The goal is unity, not division,” Porter added. “Our kids are not a partisan issue. We should support each other. Elected officials should be doing the best that they can, and as parents, we should be doing the best that we can.”

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