Kansas school board ‘childish’ over mask dispute, meeting canceled

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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH/Gray News) – A school board in Kansas canceled its first meeting of 2022 when its new members refused to wear masks, disappointing that students were being recognized for their accomplishments.

Wichita Public Schools Board Chairman Stan Reeser called on people to wear masks, then suspended the meeting on Monday after several people, including three board members, failed to put them on, KWCH reported.

The council passed a directive in August that requires anyone ages 3 and older to wear a mask in district buildings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

One of the students to be honored for his academic achievements, high school student Andrew Le, said he and other students had lost respect for the board.

“If council members are going to be childish and act more childish than even high school students, why should we respect them in the first place?” he said.

Kathy Bond was among new board members who refused to wear a mask, along with Diane Albert and Hazel Stabler. Bond posted on Facebook that it was “a difficult start”, but said she believed the council members all had the same goals in mind, albeit different ways of achieving them.

“I hope this school board can move forward after last night and focus on current business and make the academic success of our students our priority. Therefore, I will do what I have to do, until I can do what I have to do.

Other students in attendance for the recognition included several members of the Wichita Mayor’s Youth Council. The group said on Twitter that “unforeseen events” prevented the children from being honoured, but they were proud of all of their members.

Le says he hopes the school board has more productive discussions in the future, “because that’s what board meetings are for.”

“That’s what really frustrated me the most – they must have put their pride and selfishness in the fact that they’re supposed to celebrate and commemorate students,” Le said.

Albert sent a statement to KWCH, noting that former council members voted on the mask policy. She said they asked for COVID protocols to be put on the agenda, but Reeser refused.

“The (Monday) night stunt was unprofessional and unpolitical,” she said.

Reeser said the meeting has been rescheduled for Tuesday and board members who do not wish to wear masks can join remotely. They will not be able to vote remotely in accordance with council policy, he said.

“We are more than willing to have this discussion about whether this mask mandate should continue. But in the beginning we have to enforce the rules,” Reeser said. “You can’t change the rules in advance. In fact, you must have a debate on this.

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