A group of seven women were removed from the Volusia County School Board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 27, after they refused to follow the district's mask policy, according to social media posts following the incident. This delayed the meeting by over an hour.
The women wished to speak against the district's mandatory face covering policy, which was on the agenda for the board to vote on after the district added a disclaimer on face shields and clarified what constituted strenuous physical activity. The previous policy was set to expire on Nov. 2, and the board was also voting to establish it as a set mandate with no expiration date.
The women livestreamed their confrontation with district staff and DeLand police on Facebook. They were instructed by district staff to either wear a mask and stay in the room, or wait outside until it was their turn to speak on the item.
Following multiple refusals, the group was trespassed from the building. The School Board later voted to unanimously adopt the mandatory face covering policy with the new changes, though School Board member Jamie Haynes expressed hygiene concerns regarding children wearing the same mask throughout the school day and School Board member Carl Persis pointed out that the World Health Organization recommends children under the age of five not wear a mask because they are less likely to do so properly.
School Board member Ruben Colon quoted a past email by Patricia Boswell, the Volusia County Department of Health administrator, where she stated the Centers for Disease Control recommended masks in public settings to help control the spread of COVID-19.
“As a board, we’re not medical professionals," Colon said. "There are no epidemiologists up here and so the reality is that we rely on the Florida Department of Health to guide us in the right direction.”
The board will continue to examine its mask policy as COVID-19 conditions develop.
The district's attorney Kevin Pendley said that for every person that doesn't believe a face covering policy should be required, there's another that believes it should be. Students and families who were opposed to wearing masks during the school day were given virtual options for learning: Volusia Live and Volusia Online.
“If you’re going to choose to come onto school property, this is a mandatory face covering policy that applies to everyone across the board," Pendley said.
During the public comment portion of the agenda item, former teacher Kate Cumiskey said the trespassing of the group of women was "really disconcerting" and that she was still shaken up over it.
“The entire situation showed appalling ignorance about science," Cumiskey said. "It was a stark, jolting reminder of the absolute necessity for education, to me.”