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Mask defiance leads to school board meeting being halted prematurely

SNOHOMISH — People refusing to wear masks during the Aug. 25 school board meeting at Snohomish High prompted the board to shut it down early.
Meanwhile, outside the Snohomish High Performing Arts Center (PAC) where the meeting was held, an organized group opposed to vaccinations and mask mandates held signs about freedom and unmasking.
At the same time on campus, a start-of-school preparation session to take student pictures and fill out forms was happening, meaning many students saw the group protesting. Football practice was going on at the nearby stadium.
The rally originated at Second Street and Avenue D, and many walked up Avenue D to take the messages to the meeting, an eyewitness video posted on social media shows. Some held signs up to the windows.
Before the meeting was shut down, three of the four people who addressed the board opposed requiring children to wear masks indoors, minutes show. State law requires the district to have students and staff wear masks indoors.
After the public comment period ended, many people in the audience took down their masks, district spokeswoman Kristin Foley said.
In response, the board voted 4-0 to end the meeting, minutes show. It hadn’t lasted 25 minutes and didn’t reach half the scheduled agenda.
Early on, there was a short recess to have people put masks on to be able to continue the meeting.
School was not formally in session.
“When school is in session we do not allow any protesting on school grounds,” Foley said.
The first day of school was Wednesday, Sept. 8 for grades 1 through 7 and grade 9. Grades 8 and 10 through 12 start classes Thursday, Sept. 9.
It moved the meetings to the Snohomish High School Performing Arts Center to give room for visitors to spread out versus using the compact quarters of the board’s regular meeting room in school district headquarters. (This room is also where the City Council would meet pre-COVID.)
The district hasn’t decided whether to halt in-person school board meetings, Foley said.
The Aug. 25 meeting agenda had included a budget hearing. Because the meeting was truncated, budget talks were moved to a special meeting Monday, Aug. 30.
The district does not have a statement in response to the Aug. 25 board meeting, Foley said Sept. 1.
The school district has had a police officer present at meetings for the past few months.
The Aug. 25 rally did not result in any arrests nor cause additional police officers to be dispatched to the high school, Police Chief Rob Palmer said.
One week prior, on Aug. 18, anti-mask rallies organized by Unmask Our Kids Washington were held statewide, including locally at the corner of Second and Avenue D in Snohomish and outside the Everett School District headquarters on Broadway in Everett. The group mobilizes using Facebook and other social media.
Other rallies oppose state mandates that health care workers, educators and state government employees and contractors be vaccinated by Oct. 18.




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