Looking to prove a double-standard by the Berkeley Federation of Teachers union president, they followed Meyer and his 2-year-old daughter to her preschool, camera in hand. The footage they captured has ignited the ire of parents groups fighting teachers unions — and Meyer in particular.
Dr. Shelene Stine treats COVID-19 patients at Highland Hospital's Department of Internal Medicine, but she's also a parent of 3-year-old twins who attend the same preschool as Meyer's daughter. Stine also has a 5-year-old attending kindergarten at a Berkeley Unified School District school.
The divide between the quality in-person teaching her twins receive at the preschool — which includes "play-based learning" — compared to the senses-dulling video screens her 5-year-old looks at for distance learning is a yawning chasm, she said. She has spoken at rallies to reopen public schools and written public letters to the Berkeley Unified School District to push them to reopen safely.
Berkeley teachers have claimed that kids may not honor masking requirements, which Stine says her personal experience contradicts.
"I am a physician. It is definitively the scientific agreement that it is possible to deliver safe in-person education," Stine said. "It's infuriating to know Matt Meyer says kids can't wear masks when kids in his preschool wear them all day long."
Meyer, for his part, said the incident was an intrusion on his child's privacy. While the group who filmed his family, who call themselves "Guerilla Momz," did blur out his daughter in their video, they managed to spook her, he said.
“I have my two-year-old in preschool. Unfortunately, there are not public schools for kids her age. We are excited that we will be reopening soon with a plan that our members and the district supports," Meyer said in a text message to KQED Sunday morning.
He added that of the people following him and his daughter, one "scared my kid and the others in the vicinity. It was super inappropriate."
In an email addressed to the Berkeley Unified community on Monday, BUSD Superintendent Brent Stephens said the Guerilla Momz video "invade[d] the privacy of a family in our school community and target[ed] one of our educators."
Stephens appealed to both parents and educators for calm and mutual respect as the district prepares for reopening.
"In less than a month, we will have the opportunity to be together again on our school campuses," Stephens wrote. "We will need each other in order to stay safe. Looking to what’s ahead of us ... nothing is served by treating members of our community, including our teachers - and the teacher who represents them as their union president - as the enemy. We compromise our collective well-being if we don’t respect one another and treat each other with compassion."
The @guerillaMomz group declined to identify individual members by name, fearing retaliation against their kids at school. But they refuted that they scared his child, claiming they were walking quietly to avoid catching audio on the video they recorded.
"We'd heard for a while that he sent his kid to private preschool and we've been hearing him make crazy claims at the school board meetings — it was 'too dangerous' for schools to open because kids wouldn't wear masks. Meanwhile, his kid is wearing a mask at school," the group said in a written statement.
Though KQED is not identifying the preschool Meyer's child was attending by name, the school's website says for every one teacher there are four to five children.
The video has surfaced at a unique political moment. Groups representing parents have emerged as a major political force in California and are vehemently pushing for school reopenings putting them at odds with teachers unions who largely want vaccines before they feel safe restarting in-person instruction. Those parent groups have protested in Berkeley, called for the ouster of school board members in Oakley, California, and rallied against San Francisco Unified School District teachers.