Angry residents want to boot school board member for supporting masks -- and she's a pediatrician
NBC screenshot

Dr. Tracie Newman is a pediatrician, county public health officer and mother of three who was the top vote-getter just last year when she ran for the school board in Fargo, ND.

Now, thousands of angry anti-maskers "have gathered signatures to remove her from the board organized protests and questioned Dr. Newman's integrity at school-board meetings" the Wall Street Journal reports today. At issue is her recommendation that students continue to wear masks at school this fall.

"'People are questioning my motives and my ability as a pediatrician," Dr. Newman said."'That's never happened to me in my professional life.'

"The effort to oust Dr. Newman is one of more than 60 recall efforts of board members this year in school districts across the country, according to election-data website Ballotpedia. That is the most in the 15 years Ballotpedia has kept track. Some 60% mention Covid-19 restrictions as a motivation to unseat board members."

Dr. Newman is one of four Fargo school board members facing a recall election, the Journal reports. And that's not the half of it.

"A few months ago, Dr. Newman received a Hero Award from Sanford Health, the regional hospital system where she works, for her dedication and leadership in getting children safely back in school. The local YWCA nominated her to be Woman of the Year.

"Now she's entering school-board meetings through a back door to avoid angry parents," the Journal reports. "People sent photos of her unmasked at a gala event to the local paper, saying they were evidence of her hypocrisy.

"She said people have left her threatening voice mails, accused her of taking kickbacks from mask manufacturers and threatened to derail her career. In a city of 120,000, she feels constantly watched.

"'That lack of anonymity, I'm aware of it all the time,' said Dr. Newman, whose three children attend Fargo schools."

The Journal quoted parents who had supported Dr. Newman but had grown disillusioned with the school district's handling of the pandemic. And it placed the outrage in a broader context.

"The efforts reflect frustration and distrust of public officials that have intensified in parts of the country during the pandemic. More than a year into the health crisis, some of the parents working to recall Dr. Newman and three other members of Fargo's school board say they are motivated partly out of frustration with what they see as confused and ham-handed official handling of Covid-19.

"'We're not trying to take anyone's rights away," said Cassie Schmidt, a parent of three, the oldest of whom is in kindergarten. 'We're trying to retain the rights that we hold as parents.'"

Dr. Newman has advocated bringing kids back to school, but doing it safely, the Journal reports, but the conversation has taken a turn. Dr. Newman said she could sense support for her recommendations, including masking, ebbing away.

"At first it was arguing with my guidelines. Then it was disagreeing with the data I was using," she said. "Now the third and ugliest stage is people attacking my integrity."