Rantz: School segregated maskless kids into small portable without social distancing

Sep 27, 2021, 8:30 PM | Updated: Sep 28, 2021, 5:17 am

Students at Enumclaw High School who refused to wear masks were separated from their classmates and put into a small portable to wait for their parents to pick them up.

Two brothers enrolled at the school explained that school staff was hostile toward their decision to forgo masking on campus. And the mother of another student, who previously recovered from COVID, said the school’s masking policy is letting her special needs son down.

The district admits this policy was in effect “for the first days of school” but says they have since stopped the practice. But what explains the bizarre approach to begin with? It was a puzzling decision. The administration said it’s dangerous for students to be without masks on campus. So why put maskless kids into one small room?

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Mask up or be sent to a portable

Students and brothers Dawson, 17, and Ethan, 15, were barely able to enjoy the first days of school. After being kept home during the COVID pandemic, they were both excited to see their friends again. But now they’re back in remote learning after they refused to wear masks.

“The teacher came up behind me and said that I need to wear a mask,” Dawson, who admits he was breaking the rules, tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “And I just kept walking, I said, ‘OK,’ and she kind of got closer to me and said like, ‘Do you really find this funny? This isn’t funny at all,’ and was kind of going off. So I turned around and stood right next to her and said like, ‘No, I don’t find this funny at all, but I’m not going to wear a mask.'”

His brother Ethan had similar experiences.

“I actually got sent to the office, and they wouldn’t even let me in,” Ethan explained. “So they sent me out to the track outside by the football field and I waited out there until more teachers arrived to move me to the portable.”

They were to stay in the portable until a parent was able to pick them up from school.

No COVID mandates in the portable

There were no COVID rules mandating behavior in the portable, according to the two brothers. They shared photos with the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH showing no dividers between maskless students, nor social distancing.

On the first day of school, they say there were roughly six students with them. On the second day, there was only one other. There was one staff member present and in a mask.

“We just really sat there, I mean they encouraged us to go into Google classroom, you know, and try to get any assignments that were in there done. But they didn’t teach us. We didn’t do anything really,” Ethan explained.

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Why are they resistant to masks?

Both students explained they refused to wear masks out of principle. They believe it should be a choice, not a government mandate.

“I don’t think any of us should be forced into making our medical decisions by another person, especially from a public school district,” Dawson explained. “Like it would be one thing if it was a private school and we were paying to go there and we knew the policy. But this is a public high school that I’ve been going to for four years now and I don’t feel like I should be forced into wearing a mask.”

He also said the mandate doesn’t really make sense.

“The boxes that have the masks, … they literally say they don’t protect against viral infections. So it makes no sense to me,” Dawson explained.

The father of the students says they would be enrolled in remote learning as a result.

One mother weighs in

A mother of a special needs student was alarmed at the policy. She told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that her son was also placed in the portable.

“He was just three feet away from his neighbor,” she explained.

She called it a “holding place for unmasked students until they’re picked up” and said her son counted seven or eight kids who were with him.

Like Dawson and Ethan, this mother says her son was not learning. Instead, she says he was just sitting at his desk and talking to other students in the portable.

The mom says she complained all the way up to Shaun Carey, the superintendent of the district. She says he told her if she was unwilling to have her student comply with the rules, he could go to another district.

District confirms the segregation policy

The district, through a spokesperson, says they “prepared a temporary protocol for the first days of school to address face covering refusals.”

“The purpose of the protocol was to maintain the health and safety of the EHS learning community, to adhere to the mandate provided by the state of WA and was not a disciplinary action,” the spokesperson told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “This protocol is similar to the isolation protocol used for students showing symptoms of illness.”

The spokesperson says there were never more than seven kids in the portable. They were given the opportunity to put on a mask and return to their regular classrooms, should they choose.

Though the spokesperson says the “students were socially distanced to the greatest extent possible,” images show students seated close to one another when there was space to allow for separation.

Puzzling procedure

The spokesperson says the school procedure is similar “to the established isolation protocol.” That may be the case, but it’s confusing nevertheless.

If a student is unsafe without a mask in a classroom full of students who are all in masks, isn’t that student in a smaller classroom with maskless classmates less safe? Perhaps they’re not really at risk in a classroom full of masked kids after all?

And if a teacher in proper PPE can safely supervise all these maskless students, why wouldn’t state guidelines allow for vaccine-segregated classrooms for those who consent? It would run into an optics problem, but at least those who consent could stay in school.

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Rantz: School segregated maskless kids into small portable without social distancing