For the second time in two weeks, the president of the Placentia-Yorba Linda school board abruptly called off the meeting minutes after it began because people in the audience were not wearing face masks.
Most of the school staff and board members went on a walkout. But trustees Leandra Blades and Sean Youngblood remained and organized an informal “town hall” with about 70 residents in the auditorium.
For more than two hours, those residents talked with Blade and Youngblood about the mask mandate, saying there is little uniformity on how it is implemented in local schools. Blades claimed that the official meeting was canceled to prevent the issue from being raised. Youngblood questioned whether the district should have accepted millions in federal COVID money and suggested returning it.
At one point, a woman in the audience after the meeting said, “There is no deadly virus anywhere in the country.” The crowd cheered and someone said, “Amen.”
In the United States, more than 858,000 people have died from COVID-19. So far 5,946 people have died due to this virus in Orange County. And in recent weeks, local schools have struggled to stay open as they grapple with skyrocketing absenteeism among students and teachers due to the rising Omicron version.
On Wednesday night, the meeting with Board Chair Carrie Buck began with a prepared statement that reminded viewers that the state’s Department of Public Health ordered indoor masks in public buildings through February 15. He also specified that mesh masks do not meet that requirement. , and offered a free mask to anyone who wanted it. Those who did not want to wear masks were told that they could watch the meeting outside through a live stream.
Trustee Blades attempted to speak by pulling down a bandana. Buck stopped him: “You have to put on your mask too.”
“Well, I’m just speaking,” said Blade.
Buck replied: “You have to wear it, no matter where you are speaking.”
Blades said President Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, spoke without a mask.
Buck told him: “In this building, we have to wear a mask.”
Turning to the audience, Buck said that many people were not wearing proper face coverings. He then adjourned the meeting after two minutes and 39 seconds. A similar scene unfolded on January 19, when Buck called off the meeting after four minutes and 33 seconds, also due to mask rules.
“It’s illegal. You just can’t do that,” shouted one person, as in a video recorded by an attendee and shared on Facebook.
Youngblood and others questioned whether parliamentary procedures had been violated. One resident chimed in about the violation of the law, saying she had already filed a complaint with the Orange County District Attorney’s office. On Thursday, a spokesperson for that department said they do not comment on complaints submitted to the DA.
Blades said he had a number of issues he planned to bring up at the meeting, including the views of board members as much as possible in recruiting principals. “Don’t you want to know what their values are? What are their beliefs?”
Blades, a retired police officer, became the target of a petition last year after it became known that she was at the US Capitol with friends on January 6. He denied any involvement in the violence that day.
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In recent years, the Placentia-Yorba Linda School Board has attracted large crowds to many of its meetings, including issues related to the pandemic, ethnic studies, and the college-level study of racism known as critical race theory.
It is not difficult to find out who is on which side. First, there is the mask – a clear description of who is following the safety protocols. Many residents wear either green shirts in support of ethnic studies and face masks, or red shirts, against mandatory vaccines, face masks and ethnic studies.
Yorba Linda’s parent Samia, who has attended several meetings, said, “The tone of the meetings can be “very toxic and a little scary, because they are screaming.” “It’s not like you can go. and can live comfortably,” she said.
“There’s a guy who comes in with underwear on his face.”
Another parent, Brian Sarno, said in meetings he called “a vehement minority”. He added that parents who are more alert to the virus are more likely to stay away.
At Wednesday night’s informal gathering with Blades and Youngblood, several people stranded around wore red shirts. Some wore face coverings.
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A woman wearing a red shirt emblazoned with “I’ll pull them off” – meaning she will take her kids out of public school – complained to Youngblood and Blades that there is little consistency about mask enforcement. Blade agreed. He pointed to a large poster of a group of students inside a high school gym showing that many did not have face masks.
Another topic that came up is whether the district could have avoided the face mask mandate had it not accepted several million dollars in federal COVID relief funds. Youngblood suggested that the board might consider refunding the money.
District spokeswoman Alyssa Griffiths wrote in an e-mail late Thursday that the Placentia-Yorba Linda district would still have to follow any guidelines, including mask mandates, set by the California Department of Public Health and Orange County Health Care. agency.
Kindra Britt, a spokeswoman for the California County Superintendent Educational Services Association, also said schools would have to comply with the state’s face mask rules, even if they accept federal relief dollars.
Another point that has been raised repeatedly, and which led to protests outside Travis Ranch School in Yorba Linda earlier this month, revolved around mesh masks.
Clayton Chow, the head of the Orange County Health Care Agency, said in an e-mail on Thursday that there is no specific guidance from the state regarding mesh masks. But cloth masks “that are not tightly woven or with insufficient layers offer little protection,” he wrote. The Centers for Disease Control and state health departments note that it is important to wear masks that fit well; N95 masks provide the best protection.