#childsafety | Panel Experts Walk Away From Controversial OC Board of Education Reopening GuidelinesVoice of OC

Earlier this week, when Orange County’s Board of Education came under intense national scrutiny for guidelines calling on kids to return to school this fall without masks or social distancing, board members largely defended the guidelines by noting they were formulated by a panel of experts. 

But in the days since the reopening report’s release, it’s clear that panel members had no say in the final recommendations that were made to the board. 

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The report was originally hailed in public by the board majority that ultimately approved it as a group analysis from an 11-person panel in June that included multiple education and health experts, as well as county health care agency director Dr. Clayton Chau and County Supervisor Don Wagner. 

Lisa Sparks, a member of the board and Dean of Communication at Chapman University, stressed that the recommendations in the report calling masks and social distancing harmful for children came from the panel’s deliberations in a recent NPR interview. 

“That line was from the experts on our panel,” Sparks said. “We had pediatric experts on our panel. We had policy makers on our panel.” 

But now, multiple members of that panel have disavowed the report, saying it does not represent their views and that they were never consulted on the document. 

The Authors

Instead, the report was written by Dr. Ken Williams Jr., president of the Board of Education, and Will Swaim, president of the nonprofit California Policy Center, who also moderated the panel.

Neither were identified as authors within the report, with one small note thanking Swaim for his “assistance and input in the preparation of this document.” 

Members of the panel were all listed on the title page, with short bios at the end of the report. 

In an interview, Swaim said he was approached about a month before the panel met by Williams and Mari Barke, the board’s vice president, and asked to write the report and serve as a moderator for the panel. 

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