East Bay school board meeting shutdown as parents speak out against face masks in classrooms

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ByAmy Hollyfield KGO logo
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
East Bay parents shut down school board meeting while protesting masks
The San Ramon Valley Unified School Board shut down its meeting Tuesday because of shouting from protestors who refused to wear face masks.

SAN RAMON, Calif. (KGO) -- The San Ramon Valley Unified School Board shut down its meeting five minutes after it started Tuesday morning because of shouting from protestors, many whom refused to wear face masks.

"Cowards! Cowards," shouted some protestors when the meeting was adjourned.

Parents showed up at the meeting to ask the school board members to allow kids to attend school without wearing face masks. One parent begged protestors to follow the rules so they could have a discussion.

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"I will wear a mask around my chin in order to be heard, instead of yelling. Because now what we look like unfortunately because of 10% of you, we look like lunatics and we are not," Ross Hillesheim.

But when the shouting continued, the school board members walked out and ended the meeting.

It was the first meeting in-person at the district headquarters since the pandemic started.

The group first gathered in the parking lot before the meeting. ABC7 News asked some parents about the message they hoped to get across to the school board.

"I want masks to be a choice especially for kids like my son who have a speech and language impairment. It is so important for them to see the teachers' faces and their peers' faces," said Kim Maier.

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"I think we need to be giving parents a choice. We know what is best for our kids. We have been told since they were born we know what is best for them," said parent Danielle Solito.

Superintendent John Malloy said the district will follow guidelines from state and federal health officials.

"We have always believed we should and will follow the requirements of public health officials," Malloy said in an interview before the meeting. "We have done that since this pandemic has begun. We understand our parents have very different perspectives. As much as we have these wonderful parents protesting, we are also hearing from parents that would like for us to be stricter with the requirements."

Maier specifically wanted to ask why those rules would be followed.

"I realize they are putting this all on the California Department of Public Health and the CDC and they just defer to them to make all their decision based on what they are saying," Maier said. "I am here to ask the board why. Why aren't you standing up for our kids? Why don't you have a voice? Why is this all about them and not about what the board can do? Why can't you protect our kids?"

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We took that question to the superintendent before the meeting started.

"We aren't the experts. We are educators and we have a diverse community with different ideas. And if we were to start deciding when to go with the guidance and when not to, I would not feel confident that we would be able to do that effectively," Malloy said.

After an hour long break, the protestors still remaining agreed to wear masks and the meeting resumed. Concerned parents were able to make their case during the public comment section of the meeting. Some parents said the disruptors were not members of the community, but a group of political protestors from outside the community. The parents said they don't view the mask issue as a political one.

The issues of masks in schools was not on the agenda and not up for discussion by the board.

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