School Board Meetings Across States Forced to End Early Due to Anti-Mask Parents

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, school districts across the United States have been forced to consider implementing mask mandates as the new school year begins. For two school districts this week, meetings were abruptly adjourned because audience members refused to wear a mask.

The crowd at a Brandywine School District board meeting in Delaware grew restless on Monday due to a 40-minute delay. Prior to the meeting, Delaware Governor John Carney announced that students kindergarten and older will be required to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

The News Journal reported that when John Skrobot III, the school board president, and Superintendent Lincoln Hohler came out to the meeting, the two told the room the meeting was to be rescheduled because of the lack of face coverings.

"We were trying to get some additional guidance on the regulation that came out," said Skrobot, referring to the delay. "Too many people didn't want to comply tonight."

The meeting was held inside a school building that required face coverings, and The News Journal reported about half of the people who attended the meeting were not wearing masks.

"I would have loved to give everybody their three minutes during the public comment session to express their feelings on the matter, but this is not a local decision," Skrobot told The News Journal. "This is the governor's decision and we respect that and we want to comply with that and create an environment that is safe for the public to attend."

The crowd erupted with mixed reactions. Though some cheered, others booed and there were some arguments.

"We are free human beings with rights that you cannot take away from us," one woman was reported as saying.

The Brandywine Board of Education plans to convene virtually for a meeting Thursday evening.

Another school board meeting, this time in Louisiana, got just as heated. The Daily Advertiser reported that the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education held a meeting on Wednesday, but it quickly took a turn when a crowd of anti-maskers began protesting Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards' COVID-19 temporary mask mandate in indoor spaces, which extended to school facilities. This mandate is in effect until September 1.

Although those without masks were asked to wear a face-covering or move to another room when the meeting began, few in the audience complied with the request. Eventually, the crowd began chanting, "Not more masks, no more masks" and "We will not comply, we will not comply," according to The Daily Advertiser.

Antimaskers At School Meetings
Two school board meetings had to end early this week because members of the audience refused to wear face coverings. Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Evangelical Pastor Tony Spell attended the meeting and began leading the crowd and said, "They cannot arrest us all." Spell was arrested for ignoring the governor's orders early in the pandemic.

Despite the board calling for the crowd to settle down, the pleas were ignored and board members voted to adjourn the meeting.

Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Communications Manager Kevin Calbert told Newsweek the school board's position on COVID-19 mitigation protocols is that local school districts have the authority to set their own policies when no statewide mask mandate is in place.

According to The Daily Advertiser, the state board could have decided whether to defy the mask mandate. Attorney General Jeff Landry issued an opinion that only the school board could issue safety protocols.

"The Board was prepared to discuss the issue, receive public comment and potentially take action," Calbert said.

However, because the meeting adjourned without a vote, the mask mandate was left in place. Calbert said no determination has been made as to whether the school board will consider the issue at a future meeting.

"With respect to schools, it's the only reasonable way to keep schools open," Edwards said on his radio show with WRKF on Wednesday.

Newsweek reached out to the Brandywine School District but did not hear back by press time.

Updated 08/19/2021, 5:32 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with statements from Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Communications Manager Kevin Calbert.