JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said comments he made about fathers being willing to die to send their children back to school amid the coronavirus pandemic are being misinterpreted and overshadow his main message that children need to return to in-person classes this fall.
In an interview Monday, Ashcroft, a Republican, told Christian radio station KLFC in Branson, “At some point, we need to just put our heads down and say we’re gonna get through it, and we definitely need to send our kids back to school.”
He added that he didn’t “know a father alive that wouldn’t risk getting COVID, even risk dying, to make sure that his children had the greatest foundation for success for their life they could have.”
Ashcroft’s Democratic opponent in the November election, Yinka Faleti, of St. Louis, on Tuesday called Ashcroft’s statements “callous, insensitive and irresponsible” and suggested that he was willing to risk the lives of parents, children, teachers and staff to send children back to school, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
On Tuesday, Ashcroft told the newspaper that he did not say fathers should risk death to send their children back to school.
“I said I would risk that,” Ashcroft said. “And I didn’t know a father that wouldn’t. But I didn’t tell anybody else what to do. I just said we need to get schools going.”
Republican Gov. Mike Parson has left it up to school districts to decide how to proceed amid the pandemic. Most of the state’s largest districts have delayed reopening.
Ashcroft said schools must do things differently and take precautions but that he didn’t think it was fair to suggest that returning to school “automatically means death.”
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.