- A Wichita school board meeting was cut short after three new members refused to mask up.
- The non-compliant members were meant to be sworn in at Monday’s meeting, according to the Wichita Eagle.
- The board unanimously voted in August to require masks in all school buildings.
The first 2022 board of education meeting for Wichita Public Schools in Kansas was abruptly canceled on Monday after three newly-elected members refused to comply with the board’s own policy requiring masks during in-person meetings held inside school buildings.
The three new members, Diane Albert, Kathy Bond, and Hazel Stabler, were meant to be sworn in at Monday’s meeting after they unseated incumbent representatives in a November election, according to The Wichita Eagle. The Sedgwick County Republican Party recruited the three women to run as part of a national conservative effort to mobilize voters around contentious school issues like mask-wearing, mandatory vaccinations, and critical race theory, the outlet reported.
Monday’s meeting at Wichita North High School began with Board President Stan Reeser asking everyone in the room, which included multiple unmasked observers in addition to the three unmasked members, to put on a protective face covering, according to local radio station KMUW. When the newly-elected members refused, Reeser swiftly ended the meeting.
“Due to noncompliance, it is my duty to suspend this meeting without calling it to order,” Reeser reportedly said.
Last August, the Wichita Board of Education, which oversees the largest district in Kansas with more than 45,000 students, voted unanimously to require masking indoors for anyone older than 3 in all Wichita Public Schools, The Eagle reported.
“This district cannot vote on directives, policies, and protocols that we expect students, staff and visitors to abide by, all the while exempting BOE members,” Reeser said, according to the outlet. “This is a message we cannot send.”
Albert, Bond, and Stabler did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment, nor did Reeser.
As the meeting ended, Reeser reportedly said he would speak to the superintendent for Wichita Public Schools about rescheduling the meeting. In a Tuesday letter obtained by local outlet KWCH, Reeser said board members who do not wish to wear a mask can participate in future meetings virtually, though they will not be allowed to vote.
Despite a worrying surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Sedgwick County, the agenda for Monday’s board of education meeting did not include any pandemic-related items, according to The Eagle.
One student in the district, Andrew Le, told KWCH that he was disappointed with the non-compliant board members. Le was set to be recognized for academic achievements at Monday’s meeting before it was canceled.
“I believe that we’ve lost respect for the Board of Education, in that sense, that if the board members are going to be childish and act more childish than even high school students, then why should we respect them in the first place?” Le told the outlet.