YouTube takes down Johnsburg School District 12 Board meeting due to COVID-19 misinformation, then restores it

School board meeting falls under an exemption of YouTube’s policies, a spokesperson says

Video of a Tuesday Johnsburg School District 12 Board meeting was removed from YouTube this week because the platform determined it could spread misinformation about COVID-19, but the video was restored to the website Friday.

YouTube cited an exemption to its policies regarding when videos should be taken down for containing inaccuracies about COVID-19 for restoring the school board video.

The school district was working to appeal the removal, District 12 school board member Steve Link said Friday before the video was restored.

Link said the board was not made aware of specifically what was said or shown at the meeting that YouTube initially found in violation of its policies.

“They could have certainly provided more information as to why they took it down,” Link said Friday before the video was restored, adding that he thought it was unfair that those who couldn’t attend the meeting had the opportunity to view it afterward taken away.

YouTube removes videos that violate its community guidelines “using a mix of machine learning technologies and human evaluators to flag and review content,” according to YouTube.

“Upon further review, we’re reinstating the Johnsburg School District’s video,” a YouTube spokesperson said in an email. “We have policies in place to allow content that might otherwise violate our policies as long as it includes educational, documentary, scientific or artistic (EDSA) context. In line with our EDSA policies, the video is available again on YouTube.”

State Sen. Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, said the initial decision to remove the video was another reason for lawmakers to consider regulating how online platforms choose what kind of content to remove versus perpetuate.

“You’re always going to get the argument it’s a private company and they set their own rules,” he said. “But there is no doubt it is time for government to have discussions about what suppression of freedom of speech looks like, why it would be happening at a Big Tech company and who would benefit if certain types of freedom of speech are suppressed and others are promoted.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, a handful of people addressed District 12 officials during the public comment period and urged them to make masks optional for all students regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health have said unvaccinated staff and students should wear masks in classrooms for the upcoming year.

Several McHenry County school systems, including District 12, have decided to make face coverings optional for all students but recommended that those who have not gotten vaccinated continue to wear masks.

Some statements made during the public comment session raised concerns about cardiac issues resulting from COVID-19 vaccines and argued that kids don’t spread the virus.

According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, kids ages 5-11 averaged 1,056 new reported cases a week from June 2020 through June 2021. For kids ages 12-17, they averaged 1,587 new cases a week during the same time period, according to state data.

Publicly available state hospitalization data for COVID-19 is not split up by age and excludes pediatrics, pediatric intensive care units and neonatal ICUs, but in the city of Chicago, there have been 598 total hospitalizations for kids newborn to 17 during the pandemic as of July 12.

Children accounted for 1.3% to 3.6% of total reported hospitalizations across 23 states, and between 0.1% and 1.9% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in hospitalization, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Deaths among the 20-and-younger population remain the lowest of any age group in the state, with a total of only 20 statewide for the entire pandemic as of July 13, the IDPH reported.

Furthermore, myocarditis – or inflammation of the heart that can cause chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, or rapid or abnormal heart rhythms – has been reported among those who have taken the vaccine. In many cases, myocarditis improves on its own, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some treatment through rest and prescription medication may be required.

Very rare cases of myocarditis have been reported, mostly in males ages 12-29, after a COVID-19 vaccination. Myocarditis reporting rates were 40.6 cases per million second doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered to males ages 12-29 years, or a 0.004% chance of a vaccinated individual in this age group reporting myocarditis. The reporting rate was 2.4 per million second doses administered to males age 30 or older. Reporting rates among females in these age groups were 4.2 and 1.0 per million second doses, respectively, according to the CDC.

On June 23, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices concluded that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination to individuals and at the population level clearly outweighed the risks of myocarditis after vaccination.