Education

Essex-Westford school board member draws backlash for Holocaust comparison

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Liz Cady, a member of the Essex-Westford School District Board, critiques Critical Race Theory in Rutland on June 16. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

A member of the Essex-Westford School District board drew swift criticism online for an essay that equated public discourse about unvaccinated people and Jews in Nazi Germany.

In an essay published by True North Reports and the Vermont Daily Chronicle earlier this week, Essex-Westford board member Liz Cady wrote that the same “rhetoric” describing people who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 “was used in the years leading to WWII and during.”

During the Holocaust, “Religion and race were used instead of vaccination status,” Cady wrote. “I am not comparing what is happening now to the horrific genocide that took place in WWII, but I do believe we need to acknowledge the comparison of how that hate started then and how it is happening now: separating people into a desired group versus an undesired one.”

The essay sparked an immediate backlash online. Essex-Westford Superintendent Beth Cobb wrote on Twitter that she and school board Chair Erin Knox “would like to state unequivocally that nothing in Cady’s article represents the policies or beliefs of our school district.”

Cobb did not reply to a Tuesday afternoon email seeking further comment. 

“One of our roles and responsibilities as board members is to avoid even an appearance of conflict of interest,” Knox said in an emailed statement. “(Cady’s) unsanctioned rhetoric is harmful, and implies a disregard for this responsibility to our students, staff, teachers, families, and community members.”

State Rep. Lori Houghton, D-Essex, wrote on Facebook that she and the rest of the Essex legislative delegation “are appalled by the latest statement from EWSD School Board Member, Liz Cady and unequivocally reject her twisting of historical facts to fit her narrative.”

“We encourage Essex residents to pay attention to the spoken words of our elected leaders,” Houghton wrote. “We can do better.” 

The New England Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League called on Cady to read “The Diary of a Young Girl,” commonly known as the “The Diary of Anne Frank.” 

“Anne Frank & 6 million Jews were murdered solely because they were Jewish,” the New England ADL wrote on Twitter. “There is no equivalence to today’s public health policies imposed on those who choose to remain un-vaxxed.”

Cady did not immediately reply to a call and emails Tuesday afternoon seeking comment.

The essay was not the first time that the school board member, who was elected to the seat in March, has waded into controversy. 

At town hall-style meetings in Rutland and Essex, Cady spoke out against school equity and inclusion initiatives, saying they seek “to divide people by race to want the same outcome for each group, often using racial discrimination to get it.”

She also has compared Black Lives Matter protestors to Nazis, saying that the Nazis’ rise to power looked “very similar” to the “tactics employed by the BLM organization.”

In her essay this week, Cady wrote that “many commentaries to VTDigger and comments on news stories” contained a common thread. 

The theme, according to Cady, was that “the unvaccinated shouldn’t be able to clog up hospitals and that unvaccinated nurses and doctors should have to work in their own place where they can care for the unvaccinated,” she wrote. “Then, the vaccinated can attend regular medical facilities without worry or having to wait on the unvaccinated.” 

She then repeated the sentences with the word “unvaccinated” replaced with “Jews” and the word “vaccinated” replaced with “Aryan.”

“Ordinary, every day people are being manipulated to allow hate in this modern-day situation of vaccinated versus unvaccinated through the use of fear,” she wrote.

It was not clear exactly which VTDigger commentaries she was referring to. But one Dec. 21 commentary, by South Strafford resident John Freitag, proposed setting up a “high quality field hospital for those who are unvaccinated who get Covid-19.”

Freitag argued that the plan “could lessen some of the tension now felt between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, while freeing up our hospital space for traditional care and lessening the burden on health care workers.”  

And a Nov. 18 essay by Saxtons River writer Elayne Clift proposed setting aside 20% of beds for unvaccinated Covid-19 patients. 

The other 80%, Clift wrote, would be for “anyone requiring care at any level in order that their lives or health not be held hostage to those who have made choices that are not only deeply selfish but dramatically dangerous.”

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Peter D'Auria

About Peter

Peter D’Auria covers education for VTDigger. Prior to moving to Vermont, he worked for The Jersey Journal, The Chilkat Valley News and Willamette Week. He is originally from Portland, Oregon.

Email: [email protected]

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