Community members arrived at the Central Valley School Board meeting Monday night with stacks of paper and a message to the board: take back your decision-making authority from the state and get rid of mask mandates in schools. The mandate to wear masks in school was enacted by Gov. Jay Inslee.
The meeting was cordial, with speakers saying what they had to say during the public comment period and then returning to their seats in the packed meeting room. It was a marked contrast to a similar effort at a Spokane Public Schools board meeting earlier this month that quickly devolved into what one board member called “total chaos,” forcing the board to switch to a virtual meeting.
The first speaker, Beverly Enyeart, said she was representing a group called Washington Parent Alliance. She presented the board with large bundles of paper more than a foot high for each board member and said she was serving the board with public disclosure requests as a way to invoke administrative remedy.
“We had to do whatever was necessary to get your attention,” she said.
Enyeart did not explain what she meant by the term “administrative remedy,” which is typically used to describe the process a prison inmate uses to request a formal review of his or her case.
Suzanne Snavely said the public disclosure requests came from dozens of citizens, and similar efforts are being made at school boards across the state.
The Washington Parent Alliance web site has little information. It states that members want to “free Washington’s children from mandated masks and experimental vaccines. WAPA is a grassroots movement of citizens united as one voice, carrying out legal action that our sheriff’s should be doing.” The page does not specify what that legal action is.
The large packets of documents submitted to the board contained 65 copies of two documents, one eight pages long and the other 12 pages long. The documents are identical except for the signatures at the end. Almost every page is nothing but a list asking for “all letters, faxes, emails, memos, directives, instructions or orders” on a wide variety of topics, including all sources of district funding, whether anyone has promised to provide funding in exchange for a mask mandate and any information from the Washington State Department of Health or Washington State School Directors Association about masks and vaccines.
The second document appears to be requesting information that is not held by the district, such as the name, address, phone number and email address of every manufacturer of the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the results of the “Purification Test,” the “Isolation Test” and “Double-Blind Placebo Test” that prove mask wearing slows the spread of COVID-19. The document also demands that the school district release documents proving that COVID-19 is a naturally occurring virus.
Both documents were prepared by Luis Ewing, who is referenced as “Lawyer Luis Ewing” on the Washington Parent Alliance web site, but is not listed as a lawyer on the Washington State Bar Association web site. In a post in an online group, Ewing wrote that he has not attended law school, never took the bar exam and is not a licensed attorney.
In an interview Tuesday, district spokeswoman Marla Nunberg said the records request was one of the largest the district has ever received and she wasn’t sure how long it would take to gather the documents.
“It will not be an easy task,” she said. “We will respond within our five days with what is legally required and then work to fulfill the request from there forward.”
Another group of people, who arrived early, refused to wear masks and left 15 minutes after the meeting began, dropped off a packet of documents for each school board member except for Pam Orebaugh, who opposed mask and vaccine requirements in her run for school board last year. The documents state that the mask mandate “intrudes my inalienable rights of my children and I” and threatens to charge the board members with multiple criminal charges, including assault, as well as a civil lawsuit if they do not stop requiring masks in school.
A few speakers, including Carly Reed, urged the board to eliminate the requirement for students to wear masks, which is a statewide mandate. “Take the masks off,” she said. “There’s nothing to fear. I’ve had it. I’m naturally immune.”
Sue Welch said she doesn’t understand why there is a mask mandate in schools while people attending the Super Bowl were not masked. “There’s no science behind the masks,” she said. “I urge you to take a vote and get these muzzle diapers off our kids.”
The Super Bowl required proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for entry. Washington schools do not require students be vaccinated against COVID-19, nor are students required to show a negative COVID test to attend class.
Several people took the opposite viewpoint and urged the board to continue following the science and the recommendations of the Spokane Regional Health District. David Cross said he was appalled about the stacks of papers presented to the board and noted that the group only claimed the support of dozens. “That’s really sort of a drop in the bucket,” he said.
He noted that it would take time and money to respond to whatever requests the group made. “That’s abusive,” he said.
Cross said he agrees that children being able to go unmasked to school is important, but said it’s too soon. The last surge of COVID might not have happened if more people were wearing masks, he said. “Masking does help,” he said. “If we want our kids back in school, let’s do the little things like wearing a mask.”
Maria Garcia-Bachman said it is hard to do the right thing when people have different ideas of what the right thing is. She praised the board for acknowledging and following rules, even if they disagreed with them. “Some would have you abandon reason,” she said.
She urged the board not to listen to a loud but small minority when making decisions.
Toward the end of the meeting the board members discussed whether to send a letter to Inslee about the mask mandates. Inslee has announced that he will make a decision this week on the status of the ongoing mandates.
Board member Debbie Long said she wasn’t sure what purpose a letter would serve. “I know there’s a mandate,” she said. “I’m also hearing the mask mandates are going away.”
Board member Teresa Landa cautioned that there are two sides to the mask debate. “A lot of people are ready to get rid of these,” she said. “There are parents who are not ready. There’s a whole public out there, and they’re not all like-minded.”
In the end, the board elected to send a letter to the governor regarding masks, saying they would like to keep the decision in local hands, rather than a statewide mandate.
Editor’s note: The article has been updated to reflect that the board did decide to send a ltter to Gov. Inslee over mask requirements. This story originally indicated the board did not send a letter.
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