Student: Kansas school board ‘childish’ for mask dispute, canceled meeting

Students are now calling on the school board to do better and asking the district to hold the elected members accountable.
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 4:10 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH/Gray News) - A board of education in Kansas canceled its first meeting of 2022 when its new members refused to wear masks, disappointing students there to be recognized for their achievements.

Wichita Public Schools Board President Stan Reeser called on people to wear masks then suspended the meeting Monday after several people, including three board members, did not put one on, KWCH reported.

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

One of the students set to be honored for academic achievements, high schooler Andrew Le, said he and other students have lost respect for the board.

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

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

“It is my hope that this school board will be able to move forward after last night and focus on the business at hand and make our student’s academic success our priority. Therefore, I will do what I must do, until I can do what I need to do.”

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

Le said he hopes the school board will instead have productive discussions in the future, “because that’s what board meetings are for.”

“That’s what really frustrated me the most - they had to put their pride and their selfishness over the fact that they’re supposed to be celebrating and commemorating the students,” Le said.

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

“(Monday) night’s stunt was unprofessional and political,” she said.

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

“We are more than willing to have this discussion about whether this mask mandate should continue. But at first, we must have the rules followed,” Reeser said. “You cannot change the rules ahead of time. You actually have to have a debate on it.”

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