A Delaware Academy administrator is under fire for public Facebook posts and comments claiming that face masks are ineffective, harmful and unnecessary.
Since at least May, Robin Robbins, principal of Delaware Academy’s middle school and high school, has repeatedly discussed her opposition to wearing face coverings in public in posts to her personal Facebook page, often citing unreliable or outdated sources.
On May 12, Robbins shared an article entitled “Face masks pose serious risks to the healthy” from Technocracy.News, which Media Bias/Fact Check ranks as a “conspiracy-pseudoscience” publication, writing “I have been taught as an educator to use data and research to formulate my ideas and to solve my problems.”
“It doesn’t matter that I know I can’t wear a mask without getting a horrible migraine (came right from my neurologist) and that I’d rather be dead than suffer from this pain,” Robbins wrote in a comment on her own May 5 post sharing a March 2 article. “I guess that’s what this life is all about - caring more about everyone else’s needs more than mine.”
District Superintendent Kelly Zimmerman declined to comment on the matter, citing the district’s dealings with Robbins as a confidential personnel matter.
“All district employees will be trained on expectations for conduct specific to the health and safety of our students and staff,” Zimmerman said, adding that the expectations will be “regularly enforced.”
“I hope we can address any additional health and safety concerns that come up,” she said.
Jonah Shaw, owner of the Quarter Moon Cafe in Delhi and father of two Delaware Academy students, voiced his concern about the principal’s inflammatory remarks in a series of letters to Zimmerman and the school board.
“In particular, I am disturbed by comments such as, ‘I can’t and won’t wear a mask;’ ‘It’s getting harder and harder to find places that will let me in. I will have to go on a starvation diet soon;’ and ‘As we entered New York, we were welcomed with large signs all along the highway that state ‘cover your face in public if you choose to save lives.’ This is unbelievable to me … This will never stop unless we’re brave enough to stand up and say no more. It doesn’t make sense … I no longer can go along with something that doesn’t make sense,’” Shaw wrote, quoting from several of Robbins’ Facebook posts.
“While I understand that you cannot discuss ‘personnel issues,’ I believe this no longer qualifies as a simple personnel issue,” he continued. “She has made it public by posting her beliefs in a public forum.”
“The school doesn’t seem to be doing anything,” Shaw told The Daily Star.
Shaw said that when he met with Zimmerman to discuss his concerns in person, she told him she was “very concerned” and that the issues were “being addressed” and asked him to notify her of any conduct that “could be deemed a safety risk or in opposition to public health guidelines.”
Shaw said he was hopeful when he saw Robbins’ posts taken down, and alerted district officials when they resurfaced a few days later.
“I hoped the posts going back up would be an opening (for more recourse by the district), but it’s not,” he said.
“Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding the district’s ability to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff upon our return in the fall,” Zimmerman and school board President Beth Hunecke wrote in response to Shaw and dozens of other parents who submitted letters. “Please know that the specifics of your concerns have not fallen on deaf ears.”
A second district parent, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her children from retaliation at school, shared similar concerns with Zimmerman and the school board in a July 13 letter.
“I understand that what someone does in their private life is their own business, however, Mrs. Robbins is a principal of a school district and must lead according to the guidelines/orders put in place by government and public health departments,” the parent wrote.
“This is reckless and dangerous speech from someone who the community and our children look to as a leader and who is charged with keeping our children safe,” the letter continued. “I understand that she can do what she wishes on her own time, and certainly she is allowed to voice her own opinions privately, but this type of public post where she is actively encouraging people to disobey the governors’ orders and clearly stating that she does not believe much from the ‘science world’ makes her extremely dangerous.”
“Apparently the school doesn’t seem to care, which is really surprising,” said a third district parent, who also asked not to be identified to protect the identities of her children.
The third parent said she has been Facebook friends with Robbins for many years and was concerned when the principal started posting anti-mask rhetoric and decrying the state’s “New York on Pause” protocol.
“Every day now we hear about another scare tactic to get us to worry and stay hunkered down at home afraid - to stop us from truly living,” Robbins wrote in a May 14 post. “Stop listening to the news. It will never get better here on this earth.”
The parent said she reached out directly to Robbins in late March or early April to check on her wellbeing.
“I hope you’re OK; I wish you well,” the parent said she told Robbins, who did not respond. “She just seemed so scared.”
“I have found the majority of her posts to be about anti-mask wearing, anti-social distancing and her belief that the world is literally ending any moment,” the parent wrote in a July 23 letter to the school board and superintendent. “She has re-posted several inaccurate news posts that are edited and manipulated along with ones that are just not true at all. These posts have been passed around by students and parents, generating more fear in an already frightening time.”
Robbins’ posts often reference the Rapture and the second coming of Christ, the parent said.
On June 30, Robbins shared a meme reading “I’m no longer looking for the signs of the times. I’m listening for the sound of the trumpet,” an apparent reference to the seven trumpets, which are sounded to cue apocalyptic events, as told by the book of Revelation.
“Perhaps today?” Robbins wrote with the meme.
“If she really believes we’re all about to die and it’s the end times, she has nothing to lose,” the parent told The Daily Star.
“At her high level of administration, especially here in a very small rural community, she should have some restraint and respect for those who have differing beliefs. I worry that the kids will see her rants and completely lose respect for her authority,” a fourth unnamed parent wrote in a July 26 letter to the school board.
I also worry for those students who are not white, straight, or Christian. Compared to the rest of the country, DA is not all that diverse, but there are practitioners of Judaism and Islam, and there are also non-religious households. Talk of the apocalypse and ‘saving’ of the select few will either scare/shame them or give them ammo to ridicule or disrespect her as their principal.”
Robbins and Huneke did not respond to requests for comment sent to their work email addresses Thursday afternoon.
Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.