District 25 school board voids mask mandate, acknowledges ‘perceived’ open meeting law violation
POCATELLO — During a special meeting Friday afternoon, the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 Board of Trustees overturned a mask mandate it passed earlier this week.
The consideration and eventual decision to strike down the mandate came following a notice from the board’s attorney that the group may have violated Idaho open meeting law when it passed the mandate at their regular meeting Tuesday.
Because the mandate was not listed on the meeting agenda as an action item, the public had no way of knowing that a vote to implement the mask mandate was a possibility.
Board member Paul Vitale, who made a motion to overturn the decision, said that the decision was based solely on transparency.
“The board acknowledges a perceived open meeting law violation,” Vitale said. “I further move that, considering such violation, the board declares the action on the PCSD25 road map to the 2021-22 school year during its Sept. 21, 2021 regular board meeting is null and void and has no effect at this time.”
After the motion was seconded by board member Jim Facer, a vote yielded a 5-0 pass.
Prior to the meeting, dozens of parents, grandparents and others lined Pole Line Road in front of the school district offices, chanting “freedom of choice,” “choice, not mandate” and “no more masks.”
Jef Dudley, whose grandchild attends Irving Middle School, held a sign that read, “It’s not about safety, it’s about control.”
“It’s not about safety, it’s about control,” he echoed to EastIdahoNews.com. “And if they control me right now, they’re gonna want to control me in another 15 minutes.”
Dudley explained that he and his wife had been wearing masks last summer, until his wife was hospitalized with bacterial laryngitis, a result of wearing masks, he said.
Denise Sparks, whose son also attends Irving Middle School, spoke more about what she called a hypocrisy of the board, saying that when the board passed the mask mandate several board members were unmasked themselves.
At Friday’s meeting, two of the four voting board members in attendance were unmasked. Vitale and Jackie Cranor were the only two wearing masks.
Amanda Moon, who has a son at Century High School, spoke to the lack of transparency she feels was evident in the way the board handled its Tuesday vote. According to Moon, several parents who called the district offices to ask if a mask mandate would be voted on prior to the meeting were told it would not. Others did not receive answers or were put on hold then disconnected, she said.
Moon also spoke to the masks themselves, saying that forcing a child to wear a mask can lead to mental health issues.
“This is a big issue about mental health,” Moon said. “You can recover from COVID, mental illness follows you for the rest of your life. These children are suffering from mental and emotional abuse.”
Prior to the motion, district superintendent Dr. Douglass Howell explained that a mandate decision can be brought back to the table as soon as next week, at any regular or special meeting. The lone stipulation is that it be voted on before the Nov. 23 deadline for filing of the district’s road map — and that the vote be listed as an action item on the agenda.
The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Oct. 19.