Two Students Banned From School After Refusing To Wear Masks on Religious Grounds

Two students from California have been permanently excluded from school after refusing to wear masks in class.

Springs Charter School in Temecula told Fox11 that Victoria Nelson, a junior, and her brother Drew Nelson, a senior, have been banned from attending lessons after failing to comply with the mask mandate issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

On Thursday the school was placed on lockdown and the police were called after the two students refused to comply with the mask rules.

According to Fox11, the Nelson siblings chose not to wear masks for religious reasons and thought this would be enough to exempt them from the mandate.

"We thought the school would care what we believe in but they just didn't even care enough to listen," Victoria Nelson told the news provider.

The report states that Drew Nelson was immediately removed from his class and sent to the principal's office. However, Victoria refused to leave her classroom or wear a mask, prompting her teacher to reportedly evacuate the other students while preventing her from following them.

Victoria told Fox11: "When I would go left, she would follow me. I was trying to go around her and she would block me so eventually I just gave up."

The school was placed in lockdown while a school resource officer (SRO) was called in.

Sworn-in law enforcement officers often employed by a local police or sheriff's agency, SROs are primarily responsible for the safety and prevention of crime in schools.

In this instance, the Nelsons were deemed as a credible threat to staff and students.

The pair have since been banned from attending classes at Springs Charter School again regardless of whether or not they agree to wear a mask.

They will continue with classes from home, where they will continue to have access to all of the necessary resources and teaching staff to complete the curriculum for the year.

In a statement issued to Fox11, Springs Charter School has rejected the Nelsons' claims that they could avoid wearing masks on religious grounds, noting that there are no religious exemptions to the state mask order and that the right to such exemptions has never been recognized by the supreme court.

"As a public charter school, Springs Charter Schools is requiring to comply with all CDPH orders, including the mask mandate, in order to protect the health and safety of our staff and students, which is our highest priority," they said.

"To this end, students and staff are required to wear a mask while in school facilities. There are no religious exemptions in the state mask order nor has the right to an exemption even been recognized by the Supreme Court because it's a neutral law of general application to protect public health. We are still investigating the specifics of the incident."

Under the guidance set out by the CDPH on August 2, K-12 students are "required to mask indoors."

The only exemptions outlined are for "persons younger than two years old," or anyone with "a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask."

Any "persons who are hearing impaired or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired" is also exempt as are any "persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work."

The guidance makes no mention of religious exemption.

Under the rules, schools are also under instruction to "develop and implement local protocols to enforce the mask requirements" and offer "alternative educational opportunities for students who are excluded from campus because they will not wear a face covering."

Newsweek has reached out to Springs Charter School for further comment.

A student sat outside school.
Stock photo of a high school pupil - two students have been banned from attending school Moore Media/Getty

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