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Controversy surrounding photo of Sarasota County School Board member

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 10:51 PM EDT
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SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WWSB) - The mask mandate has been a red hot issue in Sarasota County since the start of school in August. Now, two competing pictures are fanning the flames.

The first photo in question is of Sarasota County School Board Member Shirley Brown at a Riverview High football game last weekend, without a mask on.

Controversial photo of Shirley Brown
Controversial photo of Shirley Brown(WWSB)

Brown was one of the board members who voted in favor of a mask mandate for Sarasota County public schools last month. This mandate requires all students and adults in Sarasota public schools wear a mask at indoor and outdoor school events.

Some claim the photo is proof of hypocritical behavior. A group called the Sarasota County School District Transparency Project posted the picture on its Facebook page and said, “This woman’s absolute lack of self-awareness knows no bounds. Shirley Brown has made a complete mockery of the district.”

However, Brown is firing back.

In a phone conversation with ABC7′s Craig Nigrelli, Brown said, “I had my mask on for most of the game. I took a break to enjoy a beverage and sat in an uncrowded spot.”

Then, Brown emailed a picture of her wearing a mask at the same game to ABC7. She said somebody she did not know sent it to her as the controversy online swirled.

Shirley Brown masked at same game.
Shirley Brown masked at same game.(WWSB)

New College of Florida political science professor Frank Alcock says emotions are running high when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic and mask mandates. Add in politics, the internet and social media, and each side will try to gain the advantage by shaping a certain narrative.

“For better or worse, we live in a world of transparency,” said Alcock. “One in which there are cameras about 24/7, 365. You set foot outside your house and cameras are always on and you shouldn’t forget that.”

When Brown was asked what her message would be to her critics, she said we all need to take a breath and it’s not us against them.

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