Florida Today | By Bailey Gallion | October 14, 2021
Brevard School Board member Jennifer Jenkins took to the national airwaves Thursday to lay out details of what she described as a campaign of harassment against her by critics, including vague threats and dubious accusations of child abuse.
MSNBC interviewed Jenkins Wednesday evening and Thursday morning after comments she made at Tuesday’s schoolboard meeting went viral on social media.
Jenkins detailed some challenges she has faced in response to her support of mask mandates and a federal investigation into threats and pressure on school board members around the country who support robust measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in schools.
This has been so difficult for me and my family and the people who care about us and love us… but I have done my best to not put that out in the public. I wanted people to know that I am strong. I am here for them and I will continue to fight for them and will never give up on that, but I also did not wnt the people who were doing this to me (to know) that it did affect me.JENNIFER JENKINS
“I don’t reject people coming here and speaking their voice, they do it all the time,” Jenkins said the Tuesday board meeting. “We don’t stop them from doing that. I don’t reject them standing outside my home. I reject them following me around in a car, following my car around. I reject them saying that they’re ‘coming for me’;’ that I need to ‘beg for mercy.’”
“I reject that, when they are using their First Amendment rights on public property, they’re also going behind my home and brandishing their weapons to my neighbors, that they’re making false (Department of Children and Family) claims against me to my daughter, that I have to take a DCF investigator to her playdate to go underneath her clothing and check for burn marks.”
As of Thursday morning, a tweet with the clip from the board meeting had been retweeted over 34,000 times and liked nearly 40,000 times.
Jenkins is one of three board members who have supported mask mandates since the end of August, but is the only board member to have protests outside her house. Protesters at several School Board meetings have held signs reading “Recall Jenkins.”
The school board clip aired on multiple national news programs. Jenkins appeared on MSNBC news commentary shows The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell on Wednesday evening and The Morning Joe Thursday morning.
On The Last Word, Jenkins said she faced an unfounded report from DCF that her daughter was being abused. She said the harassment has caused some “dark moments” for her and her family.
“This has been so difficult for me and my family and the people who care about us and love us … but I have done my best to not put that out in the public,” Jenkins said. “I wanted people to know that I am strong. I am here for them and I will continue to fight for them and I will never give up on that, but I also didn’t want the people who were doing this to me (to know) that that it did affect me.”
She also placed some of the blame on Moms for Liberty, an organization co-founded by Tina Descovich, a former Brevard County School Board member who lost her seat to Jenkins in the 2020 election.
“It started with a minority group of individuals who are a part of an organization that was founded by my Republican opponent who have decided that their voices are going to be used to terrorize me,” Jenkins said. “You know the majority of people support me … but unfortunately it takes one person to terrorize you. And when there’s no consequences for it, it becomes the norm and it becomes acceptable.”
The Brevard chapter of Moms for Liberty posted to Facebook Thursday morning criticizing Jenkins’ remarks. The group said it disagrees with some of Jenkins’ “really despicable behaviors,” but has condemned protests outside her home and has condemned “disturbing behavior” members have witnessed outside Brevard Public Schools’ Viera headquarters. But Moms for Liberty denied that it “terrorized” Jenkins.
“Using the word ‘terrorize’ is a very dangerous accusation and is baseless when it comes to our organization,” the organization wrote. “It is only a testament to the impact we have made in the community that Ms. Jenkins feels the need to spread lies and false accusations about our group of moms and dads that are fighting for our children. We will not be intimidated by Ms. Jenkins or any other politician that tries to slander us.”
Sheriff Ivey offers opinion on Brevard County school mask mandate
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey weighed in on the school district’s mask mandate in a video livestreamed on the Space Coast Daily’s Facebook page Wednesday. He said the School Board violated state rules by instituting the mask policy and he stands with parents who wish to decide for themselves whether their children should wear masks to class.
“We’ve never been the mask police,” Ivey said. “If they’re at school and the teacher asks them to put a mask on and they don’t want to do it, that’s between little Johnny and little Jane and the teacher. We’re not getting involved. If things start to get out of hand and violence starts to erupt … then our team will engage.”
“It started with a minority group of individuals who are a part of an organization that was founded by my Republican opponent who have decided that their voices are going to be used to terrorize me,” Jenkins said. “You know the majority of people support me … but unfortunately it takes one person to terrorize you. And when there’s no consequences for it, it becomes the norm and it becomes acceptable.”JENNIFER JENKINS
Ivey further said that the mask mandate has caused School Board meetings to “get out of control” because parents are “outraged.”
The School Board provided salary information for its board members to the Florida Department of Education Thursday; the agency had given the district until the end of the day to provide the details so the FDOE could begin withholding pay on a monthly basis as long as the mask mandate remains in effect.