YORBA LINDA, Calif.—A school board president abruptly ended a Jan. 11 meeting after parents refused to mask up amid a mesh mask prohibition debate that threatened the expulsion of a sixth-grade student.
Carrie Buck, president of the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School Board, urged attendees at the start of the meeting to put on a mask per state guidelines on masking, adding that “mesh masks are not acceptable.”
“Mask materials should block the light when held up to a bright source, and it should ensure that any particles coming from a person’s mouth are contained within the mask,” Buck read from a statement by the Placentia-Yorba Linda Superintendent James Elsasser.
“Mesh masks do not meet these requirements. Therefore, they are not acceptable in this building, or in any facility district within our schools.”
After pausing for nearly a minute to allow attendees to put on a mask, and providing masks for those that did not have one, Buck ended the meeting by saying audience members were still visibly not wearing masks.
“I don’t think this has ever happened before in the community,” Matt Huddleston, a parent of three students in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, told The Epoch Times. “Everybody’s really astonished.”
Huddleston has attended the board meetings regularly for months along with other parents speaking against COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates for K–12 students. Until that night, he never experienced a meeting being canceled within the first five minutes.
However, per government code, it is within the board president’s right to adjourn the meeting without calling for a vote, according to a district spokesperson.
While the prohibition of mesh masks is a newly announced requirement, school board attendees speculate the rule popped up after a heated debate regarding acceptable masks to wear within schools.
Maggie and Austin Uvalle, parents of a sixth-grader in Travis Ranch School in Yorba Linda, attended the Jan. 11 board meeting along with their attorney.
The parents are working to file a lawsuit against the district, alleging their son, upon returning from winter break, was not allowed to go to school with a mesh mask and needed a medical mask, or cloth mask, even though mesh masks were not explicitly prohibited in the state or district masking guidelines for K–12.
Travis Ranch School and Yorba Linda Unified School District didn’t comment on the incident.
Maggie Uvalle extensively searched the school district website for guidelines regarding the usage of mesh masks in an attempt to find her son a more comfortable alternative to a medical or cloth mask.
When no such guidelines were found, her son went to school wearing a mesh mask until one of his teachers ordered him to put on a medical mask on Jan. 5, Uvalle said.
The following two days the student arrived back at school with a mesh mask after his parents reassured him he was not breaking any rules per the school district’s website.
It wasn’t long before the sixth-grader was approached by the vice-principal, ordering him to change his mask, Uvalle said.
School officials presented the Uvalles with alternative schooling options for their son.
“I declined it,” Uvalle told The Epoch Times. “They say if he comes to school in that mask one more time he will not be enrolled.”
Uvalle said the incident left her son in distress, worried about his honor roll status and reputation among his peers.
“It rattled our entire lives,” she said. “I don’t know where we go from here. It’s feeling very hopeless.”
Uvalle said she hopes that their attorney will assist with mending the issue.
“My issue is, I want to know how the school can enforce something that is not policy,” she said. “My concern is that today it’s a mask issue, but tomorrow it’s something else.”
Leandra Blades, a Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School board member, is currently working on getting the sixth-grader back in the classroom.
“They’re denying him an education,” Blades told The Epoch Times.
Blades said the issue that resulted in the adjournment of the Jan. 11 board meeting stemmed from over 50 parents arriving at the school board meeting in support of the student.
Blades said she speculates her colleagues saw the lawsuit coming and quickly enacted the mesh mask policy to avoid repercussions.
Before the board meeting, the school district didn’t explicitly prohibit mesh masks, as many students and teachers wore them daily, Blades said.
“There have never been problems with mesh masks,” Blades said. “I brought a mesh mask to every board meeting. I’ve worn mesh masks on the campuses, where I’ve seen students [and] teachers wearing these masks.”
While the student is unable to go back to school, Blades shared that there are other students on the campus of Travis Ranch School that are wearing mesh masks every day.
“All over the district, [students are] wearing mesh masks, and nobody’s saying anything,” she said.