The board of the Rosedale Union School District unanimously agreed to pen a letter to state officials, urging them to overturn a state mandate that requires universal masking inside schools.
The move came Tuesday after the board heard about 40 minutes of public comment, which was entirely against the mask mandate. With few exceptions, most of the speakers described themselves as parents in the district. One student from Centennial Elementary also spoke, calling masks "stinky and hot."
Board president Michael Spickler added that he had also received 30 to 40 emails from parents in the district urging the board to take action. He said he was energized by the public participation.
"Thank you for standing up, thank you for putting together the things you're going to send to the governor," Spickler said. "We needed to do this a year ago and tell the governor we're not standing up for this."
Many of the speakers claimed that masks are ineffective against COVID-19 or that they cause medical problems. They also claimed they cause emotional or psychological harm against their children.
"What I want to share has nothing to do with science or data, it has to do with a mother watching her children lose all joy and excitement in school," one parent, Dylan Mendenhall, told the board.
She said her daughters stopped smiling and laughing when they returned to school last year, complained about wearing their masks and exhibited signs of depression. She said children need to see faces.
"Speaking for myself, I want your children in school making their own choice about a mask," Spickler said. "I agree."
He said he took pride in the fact that Rosedale Union was one of the first school districts to open its doors last year, and he said that was because of the support of the board.
Rosedale Union trustee Gary Moore asked the board to sign on to a letter directed to state officials, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Department of Public Health Director Tomás Aragón, Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, and State Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield.
All five members agreed. However, they were careful to note that a letter was the limit of their powers as a board. They said they had sought legal counsel, which urged them to follow the mandate lest they face lawsuits and financial repercussions.
"Just because we send a letter doesn’t mean we can break laws," Spickler warned the parents.
Trustee Laurel Sheffield said she agreed with most of what the parents said but that the board's hands were tied. She said that the place to take the fight was the state.
"I feel as frustrated as you all are," she said.
She also referenced Sept. 14 — the date of the recall election against Gov. Newsom — as another way to get involved to overturn the mask mandate.