About 10 students showed up for school on Wednesday morning at I-35 High School without masks and were met with a demand by the administration — mask up or get out.
According to one parent, about 60-80 parents have been showing up to school board meetings to express frustration with the mandatory masking policy. But it seems the board is not listening, they said.
This parent’s daughter asked if she has the right to not wear a mask why she has to wear it. Her father said she doesn’t and they decided today, May 12, she would show up for school without wearing a mask.
About 10 kids in all chose not to wear a mask.
“We’re a small rural community district, so we never have problems at school,” the parent told The Iowa Standard. “I followed my kids to school today and when I pulled in Madison County Sheriff’s Office was right out front. I thought, ‘well, this is going to get interesting.’”
The children were instructed to walk in and say they respectfully decline to wear a mask and state they want to be in school and the school could call their parents if there were issues.
Teachers and police officers were at the door when the students walked in, according to the parent. The students were immediately sent to a conference room.
The principal, Steve Kaster, pulled two of the parents into the office and said it is board policy that mandates masking.
One parent claimed a religious exemption, but the principal said only the board can approve exemptions and they would need a reason.
After the parent disagreed, the choice was given to take the student home for remote learning or have the student put on a mask and walk to class.
“I choose neither,” the parent said. “They have the right to be in the school and they have the right to not wear a mask and remote learning is not effective so I didn’t choose that.”
Eventually, the parent told the principal to do what he had to do, but his choice is for his daughter to go to their desk and learn without a mask.
At that point, according to the parent, Kaster called the Madison County Sheriff and the parent was told to leave or be arrested for trespassing.
“Obviously I’m respectful and I’m not going to riot or burn down cities,” the parent said. “I repeated to the sheriff’s deputy to make sure it was clear — ‘You will arrest me if I don’t leave this public institution that does not have the authority to mandate that my kids wear masks.’ They said yes and I said OK and I took my kids and I left and we’re at home now.”
Other students were forced to leave the school as well. A couple of kids were told they would have five-day suspensions according to the parent as well.
Moving forward, the parent said they’d like to find a civil rights attorney or a lawyer. He is waiting to find out if the sheriff will really enforce the school’s mask mandate or not.
“If he’s not going to enforce it, I’ll send the kids back to school again tomorrow without masks,” he said.
Heather Stancil, who serves on the Madison County Board of Supervisors, said the county has not had a mask mandate at any time during COVID.
“We believe that parents should make the decision whether or not the children should be masked,” she said. “We never had a mask mandate in our county because we believe in freedom.”
The Iowa Standard reached out to Kaster.
“I’m not at liberty to comment about that,” he said. “That’d be the superintendent to make that call or make that statement if there’s anything to be made.”
We asked if the school had law enforcement at the school prior to students arriving.
“I thought you said you had questions about what happened with masks,” Kaster said. “You know, I guess our goal each and every day is to provide a safe environment for the kids that are here in school. But as a result of what happened this morning or what took place today, I’ve got no comment.”
The I-35 superintendent is out of town this week, so her office could not comment.
Madison County Sheriff Jason Barnes disputed much of what the parent said. Barnes said nobody was threatened to be arrested.
“The mask thing is the school’s issue,” Barnes said. “They’re dealing with that. We got called down there because there was a subject who wouldn’t leave the property. There was no threat of arrest, he just left. There was no threat of arrest at all.”
Barnes also said the sheriff’s office was not at the school prior to being called due to a subject not being willing to leave.
“I don’t know what the school told him, I just know what we did,” Barnes said. “And we got down there and he left. There was a quick conversation. It was real civil. He explained how he felt about everything and he left.”
Barnes said his office will not arrest anyone for not wearing a mask at the school.