Parents Unload on Snowline School Board Over Mask Mandate

PHOTO: Snowline Schools

Parents raise concern over mandatory mask requirements as the new school year begins. (frame grab from the July 30 meeting.)

On July 30, 2021, Snowline parents showed up to the special Snowline JUSD board meeting to voice their opposition to the mandatory mask mandate that will impact their children upon their return to school on Thursday, August 12. During the comments portion of the meeting, parents were critical of the decision to require students to wear masks in class.

One of the parents that attended the board meeting was Heidi Bates. She was the first in attendance to speak during the comments portion and made quick but effective reasoning against mask wearing: “I’m just kind of curious, we’re all sitting in a room together, and we don’t have any masks on, right? So why would our children need to wear them?” As per the Brown Act regulations, the board members were allowed to receive public comments but were not allowed to respond–a rule that seemed to irk the parents in attendance.

Kelly Elsasson argued that kids wearing masks was unhealthy for them. She pointed to the smell of the masks at the end of the day and “scientific background” as evidence.

A recent letter published by The Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that children may experience an increase in CO2 in the first minutes after putting on a mask. It is unclear if this is the scientific background Elsasson is referring to. But experts say that this increase is nothing to be concerned about especially considering the safety that masks provide.

Jeremy Keenan also attended the meeting to speak out against the mask mandate. “It should be the choice of the people that you serve and not the state.” He said parents that are concerned about their child being around unvaccinated kids should keep their children at home because the local population in this area wants their kids to “attend school unadulterated, without masks; and that should be honored.” He ended his comments by imploring the board to put the people ahead of the state guidelines. Several in attendance applauded him for saying this.

On July 12, the California Department of Public Health released the guidelines for the new school year. The rules will require adults to wear masks indoors if students are present and will allow for students and adults to go without masks in outdoor settings. This was not a decision made by the SJUSD board of trustees.

Following a comment that was actually a question regarding disciplinary issues for students that choose not to wear masks, members of the audience grew agitated. They interrupted board President Marcus Hernandez several times over what they felt was a lack of transparency. The audience demanded to know what disciplinary action those students might face in case they felt private or online education was a better fit. They also wanted to know if critical race theory will be taught at Snowline. As one parent put it: “We got to make decisions for our children, and we need this information public so we can know how to make that correct decision.” Hernandez responded by saying that these issues will be further discussed at the next meeting.

Other issues brought up during the board meeting were school bus stops, the inequality of their locations, the start times of schools, and how they negatively impact families with two working parents. The next SJUSD board meeting will be on August 24 at 6 pm. The meeting can also be streamed online from the Snowline JUSD web page.

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