Teacher Stacy Pearce released a TikTok video protesting Covid mandates. (Photo/Screenshot)
Teacher Stacy Pearce released a TikTok video protesting Covid mandates. (Photo/Screenshot)

NorCal teacher on leave after Holocaust vaccine comparison

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A Northern California middle-school teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave after posting a TikTok video comparing Covid-19 testing requirements to the Nazi treatment of Jews.

Stacy Pearce, listed in a directory as a teacher at Berrendos Middle School, again made the comparison while wearing a yellow star pinned to her jacket at an Oct. 18 public protest in Red Bluff, the county seat of rural Tehama County.

In the TikTok video, Pearce says she’s been a public school teacher for 26 years and rails against a testing mandate implemented that day for school staff. In August, California became the first state in the country to mandate that all school staff be either vaccinated or tested weekly, orders that required full compliance by Oct. 15.

Pearce, who remains unvaccinated, takes issue with the fact that even though vaccinated people can also contract the virus, only the unvaccinated are subject to testing. She said unvaccinated people are being “singled out” and called it a form of “discrimination.”

“So why am I wearing this yellow star on my chest?” she says in the video. “In Nazi Germany, the Jews were required to wear this yellow Star of David on their clothing to identify them, to humiliate them and to isolate them. What’s happening today is not much different in our school system.” The video has since been deleted.

Pearce is not alone in her opposition to Covid-19 mandates in Tehama County, a conservative region that supported Donald Trump by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in the 2020 presidential election.

On Oct. 18, the day of the rally, students and parents staged a walkout against vaccine requirements. The county superintendent told local news reporters about 40 percent of students were absent from school that day.

All over the country, certain conservative activists and politicians have drawn scrutiny, and criticism, for comparing Covid-19 public health requirements — such as mask mandates, vaccine requirements and testing rules — to the Nazi treatment of Jews, specifically the requirement that Jews identify themselves with yellow stars in Nazi-controlled countries. The Oklahoma Republican Party drew criticism after it used a yellow star on social media to rally opposition to the mandates, and a representative in Washington State had to apologize after wearing one during a speech. Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has repeatedly made the comparison between Covid mandates and Nazi-era laws, drawing sharp criticism including from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, which called her statements a “sad symptom of moral and intellectual decline.”

Ethan Katz, an associate professor of Jewish and European history at UC Berkeley, said in a statement shared with multiple outlets that Pearce’s comments were offensive and that the comparison was deeply ahistorical.

“The Star of David,” he said, “is a symbol the Jews were forced to wear by a totalitarian regime that was enacting the beginning of a policy of extermination of an ethnoreligious group.”

Appropriating the profound trauma of Jewish history in order to make some political point is offensive and inexcusable.

The Antelope Elementary School District in Red Bluff issued a statement condemning the TikTok video, saying it had launched an investigation into the matter but could not “comment in a detailed way” on its status.

“We seek to educate children in an environment of respect for each other, for our community, and for humankind,” Superintendent Jim Weber wrote in the Oct. 21 release. “Appropriating the profound trauma of Jewish history in order to make some political point is offensive and inexcusable.”

The news that Pearce had been placed on leave was first reported over the weekend in a blog post by Shawn Schwaller, a historian and teacher at Cal State Chico. J. confirmed the development in a conversation on Monday with Shawn Greer, Pearce’s neighbor who has been advocating vigorously on her behalf.

The incident has shaken up Red Bluff, a town of about 14,000, located off Highway 5 some 30 miles south of Redding. On Facebook, a resident reported driving past a parked car that said “I stand with Stacy” in its rear window “along with a little star.”

Greer, who runs a local political group called “Tehama Citizens for Freedom,” launched a campaign called #standwithstacy that includes a petition and letter-writing effort to the school district. The petition had over 400 signatures as of Monday.

Asked to respond to those who might be offended by Pearce’s comparison, Greer said, “The Holocaust didn’t start with gas chambers. It started with making people feel different. It started with intimidation, and separation, and saying, ‘You’re not part of my group.’”

Pearce is not saying “that the vaccine is as bad as what happened in the late stage of the Holocaust,” Greer said. “But we have an opportunity to step in now.”

Pearce did not respond to a Facebook message seeking comment.

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.