school board protest

After the Box Elder School District Board of Education left when the crowd refused to put on masks at a meeting on Oct. 8, members of the public started contending with one another about wearing masks so board members could return and hear their grievances. The meeting was adjourned early and rescheduled in a virtual-only format for Monday, Oct. 12.

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The Box Elder School District Board of Education stopped its meeting short last week after some local residents who showed up to protest the district’s facemask-wearing requirements for students refused to don masks themselves.

Concerned members of the public packed the school board meeting Thursday, Oct. 8 in protest of their students having to wear facemasks while in school. Few of those in attendance wore face coverings, which resulted in the meeting being ended early.

Residents in some rural areas and smaller towns have opposed their children wearing masks since the beginning of the school year. They have stated that the towns are small and family connected. Children interact with each other in many situations outside of the school, which they argue makes it unnecessary to wear masks while inside the school setting.

Prior to opening the public comments portion of the meeting, board President Karen Cronin requested those in the room “mask up” to comply with district and health guidelines as two board members had health issues. The request resulted in immediate pandemonium, as audience members began to recite statements including “Nowhere in the Constitution does it say I have to wear a mask” and “The health and well being of our children is not being considered.”

Cronin again asked those in attendance to mask up or retire to a room across the hall where technology had been set up for them to be able to see and hear proceedings of the meeting and make public comments. As the tumult continued, Cronin asked the board for a vote to recess the meeting, and board members were escorted out of the boardroom by a Brigham City police officer amid continued protests and demands to be heard.

Members of the audience stayed in the room and continued to voice their opinions with each other. A poster was shared showing a picture in which Superintendent Steve Carlsen, his secretary and another employee not wearing masks in the Independent Life Skills Center building alongside pictures of children wearing masks at school with the query “Why them and not us?”

Carlsen returned and said the meeting would resume in 10 minutes if the unmasked participants would adjourn to the room across the hall.

“This is stupid,” one person stated. Let’s go across the hall so we can be heard.” Otherwise, she continued, it will be another month and that meeting will be canceled, too. Her comment was not met with enthusiasm as only a few people drifted to the other room.

It was then announced that the board members had left the building, prompting more remarks of disappointment from the crowd.

The facemask requirement comes from the Utah Board of Education. The Box Elder School District has asked the state for permission to relax the requirement for certain rural areas, but the request has not been granted. Utah has seen a surge in positive COVID-19 tests in recent weeks, and Box Elder County has seen a smaller but significant increase as well.

The premature ending of Thursday’s meeting prompted the district to schedule a virtual-only meeting for Monday, Oct. 12 to address agenda items originally scheduled for the Oct. 8 meeting. The Monday meeting occurred after the Leader went to press.

During the pandemonium on Thursday, Facilities Director Corey Thompson gave to newspaper correspondents a sample of the information that will be distributed among the neighborhood of the new Brigham City elementary school containing timeline of construction events. The school will be open for the 2022-2023 school year.

Leader editor and staff writer Jeff DeMoss contributed to this article.

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