Kansas City Star. April 5, 2021.

Editorial: Fighting Kansas school mask mandates is ludicrous, and now is the absolute wrong time

This can’t wait a few weeks until the end of school? Until what may be the end of the COVID-19 pandemic? Do parents really have to drag school boards to hearings, and even into court, to end a mask mandate that may be going away in a few weeks anyway?

It’s ludicrous, wasteful and fraught with danger. But that’s what’s happening in multiple school districts, after the Kansas Legislature passed a new law allowing such legal challenges to mask mandates by any student, parent or teacher in the state.

The Blue Valley school district scheduled such a hearing for 10 a.m. Tuesday after at least two parents made a complaint seeking to end the mask mandate in district schools. Only the parties to the complaints will speak before a district hearing officer, and public attendance is limited to those who registered via an online form Monday. The Olathe district, too, is dealing with a complaint in a hearing at 2:30 Tuesday.

So let’s get this straight: Some folks want to eat up school districts’ invaluable time and resources in order to end a policy that makes schools safer? And they’ll do it at public hearings, which still are, themselves, a public health risk. What are we missing here?

Good grief, what is so onerous about mask wearing, which you still must do in Johnson County businesses, that we have to divert school districts’ time, attention and money away from teaching — in a hopelessly truncated school year?

Will anyone really feel this is worth going to court over when the school boards, as is likely, reaffirm their existing mask mandates?

“It’s a control issue,” says one commenter opposed to mask mandates on the “Olathe parents in support of in-person learning” Facebook page.

Absolutely. It’s about controlling a deadly virus. It’s not about the tyranny of government, as some want to believe. It’s about the public health.

Parents even contemplating these useless legal challenges to school masks should consider a few things before doing so.

First, the end of school, and the end of mask mandates, is just over the horizon. We’ve done masks for over a year. What’s another few weeks?

Second, just because the Legislature has opened the door to such legal challenges doesn’t mean we have to go through it. Pass it by, on the way to what is undoubtedly a healthier — and, yes, freer — future.

Third, isn’t it just possible, if not likely, that the vast majority of families in your district favor the mask mandate until the pandemic has more fully lifted? What about the tyranny of the minority, imposing its will on the majority?

None of this is to demonize those who file these complaints. They are free to do so, even if most of us think it’s folly.

No, the real blame lies with leaders in the Kansas Legislature, who allowed this Wild West fracas to ensue at the local level when they overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s decision last week to extend the statewide mask mandate. Now it’s everyone for themselves.

School districts are left to deal with the Legislature’s frontier-town approach. Our friends and neighbors who make a living in school administration — who have worked their tails off the past year to navigate a historic pandemic while still trying to educate our children — are now faced with complaints, hearings and possible lawsuits for merely requiring safe learning environments through masks.

This is the last thing they needed. And a maskless school, so close to the end of both the academic year and the end of the pandemic, is the last thing our kids need.

To parents even thinking of doing this, please consider the cost — in money, certainly, but also in focus and finite time.

And be careful what you wish for, on everyone else’s behalf.

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Topeka Capital-Journal. April 2, 2021.

Editorial: Kansas Legislature needs to step up and sign off on medical marijuana this session. And let’s keep talking.

The time has come to legalize medical cannabis in Kansas.

The testimony of advocates has accumulated. Just read about the story of Kiley Klug and her son Owen in last week’s Topeka Capital-Journal. His constant seizures couldn’t be treated through traditional means. Cannabis worked. As it has for so many people grappling with a diverse array of medical challenges.

Kansas advocates celebrated a milestone moment last week, Andrew Bahl wrote, when “the House Federal and State Affairs Committee approved legislation to create a medical cannabis program in Kansas — one without several key restrictions that some worried would limit its effectiveness.”

More:Will Kansans get access to medical marijuana? Advocates hail progress, but hurdles remain.

That’s a good first step. But you can hear the hemming and hawing from many legislators, from those concerned that too many people might access cannabis, from those worried about how much THC is allowed, from those counting the number of possible dispensaries.

This is all nonsense.

Doctors across the state can — and do — prescribe a host of medications more addictive and potentially life-destroying than cannabis. You can pick up a vial of Vicodin or Percocet. You can be prescribed opioids.

What’s the difference between those drugs and cannabis? They’re created by pharmaceutical companies and have giant marketing budgets.

Some lawmakers also grumble that medical cannabis is simply a first step toward full acceptance of the substance. To which we say — let’s have that conversation. Has Colorado, with fully legalized recreational cannabis, become a post-apocalyptic wasteland? Have its residents started wild crime sprees?

Or has it simply legalized a product that has medical and everyday applications?

Think of all the people serving jail time or probation on marijuana-related charges. Think of all the law enforcement time spent on pursuing cases and charges for nonviolent drug offenses. Think of all the lives ruined by a punitive approach to this drug.

We don’t expect the law to change overnight in Kansas. But legislators should understand that prohibition of cannabis serves no good purpose.

Kansans are already consuming the substance, as they have for decades. (A shocker, we know.) Making the sale and use of cannabis legal in some capacity, while allowing for tax collections and more monitored use, would result in a safer approach that’s better for everyone.

Let’s start with medical cannabis and see how that works out. And then let’s keep having the conversation.

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Lawrence Journal-World. April 2, 2021.

Editorial: Best wishes for a happy Easter and happier days ahead

Easter always has had a dichotomy at its heart. One of the holiday’s most powerful symbols is an empty tomb. One of its most powerful messages is that we are truly never empty.

It is a particularly important message to remember during these times. In fact, regardless of whether you are Christian, it seems that Easter could be a particularly helpful holiday to everyone who is battling through a second year of this pandemic.

A central theme of Easter, of course, is sacrifice. The pandemic has required much sacrifice. Wearing a mask, though, hasn’t been one of them. An inconvenience, yes. An annoyance, yes. But Easter is good at putting sacrifices into perspective, and covering your mouth and nose — not so much to protect yourself but to protect others — is no sacrifice. Masks hang from your nose, not from a cross. Let’s power through the final months of this pandemic and continue following the advice of health professionals to the end.

But certainly, there have been sacrifices, some small and some final. There are damaged psyches over everything from canceled graduation ceremonies to lost visits with grandchildren. There are broken hearts over deaths that should not have been, deaths that occurred next to an empty bedside, and disease that has damaged bodies in ways that won’t fully recover.

Those sacrifices are very real and very painful. That is why it probably is wise for us to focus less on the sacrificial message of Easter this year and more on the promise that it makes. That empty tomb promised us that we will not be alone. That message should provide us comfort during these tough times.

The message has been comforting Christians for more than two millennia now. Ponder that length of time for a moment. For more than 2,000 years a story of a man hanging from a cross has given hope, because for so many it is so much more than a story.

If you are not Christian, Easter won’t have the same meaning, but there is certainly no reason it should be meaningless. Everyone can embrace the idea of never being alone. We all can look for ways to be together. Make that extra phone call this holiday. Do something outrageously nice that gets noticed, not to take credit for it, but rather to remind those around you that they are not alone. Simply share a smile more.

None of this requires a belief in anything other than the conviction that we are not destined to be alone.

It would be naive, though, to say that it is always easy. There are people who are alone in their homes and have so little contact with others. There are those who have had all their close family members die and feel they don’t have a place to turn. There are those who have lived a life that has convinced them that being alone is the better alternative. As humans, we should seek them and try to reach them.

But even if we fail — an undeniable part of being human — know that even they are not alone. We all have something inside of us. Anyone with a mind has felt it at some point. Whether it is called intuition, conscience or a voice of a savior, it is there. Even during these tough, depressing times, it is still there. The challenge is not possessing it. The challenge is embracing it.

A perfectly appropriate wish for Easter is that we all embrace it. Best wishes for a happy Easter and happier days ahead.

END