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Shouting, police officers and tears: Council Bluffs school board meeting turns into an anti-mask demonstration
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Shouting, police officers and tears: Council Bluffs school board meeting turns into an anti-mask demonstration

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Whether in school or at the grocery store, mask wearing has become a polarizing topic. 

Tuesday’s meeting of the Council Bluffs Community School District Board of Education took a turn during a discussion about masks, as anti-mask attendees began yelling at board members.

Board President Chris LaFerla told the crowd that the district was a defendant in the federal case in which a judge blocked enforcement of the Iowa law that bars school districts from mandating the use of masks.

“After this ruling, we are faced with very real legal liability if we do not use masks,” he said.

“Why is there no legal liability if they get sick with something else?” asked Brian Haney, who spoke during the public participation portion of the meeting.

Haney noted that suicide, abuse and drug abuse have all increased substantially during the pandemic.

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“We’re putting our entire population at risk by mandating these things,” he said.

“Are you prepared to face lawsuits from the other side?” asked Adam Devoll.

That drew a loud round of applause from many in the boardroom.

“This is a temporary restraining order,” Amy Foster said. “The law still stands. You are choosing to muzzle our children. You are forcing children to be responsible for other people’s health and safety.”

One father said he had heard students who refuse to wear masks would be taken to the office and their parents called to pick them up.

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“I will be pulling up to the office and taking my child out for ice cream,” he said.

That also drew applause.

Melissa Tucker also spoke during public participation.

“I hear you are legally bound to mask our children,” she said.

Tucker said young boys -- like her son -- hear different frequencies than girls and that he has trouble hearing his teacher when she is speaking through a mask.

“How are they supposed to learn?” she asked.

“If you read on the packages, these masks are not going to prevent COVID-19,” Tucker said. “Is there any way everyone can be educated?”

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Patrick Mendoza said he bought several packages of masks, and he still has the papers that say they won’t work.

“This is nothing but a sham,” he said. “In the beginning, this was about the virus. Now, it’s about control. I am not going to force this on my son. I’m not going to make him wear a mask -- and you’re not going to make him wear one, either.”

Fran Parr, another parent, said she thought the board was doing a good job in an untenable situation.

She suggested parents with objections contact Sam Longhold, an assistant in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office who is involved in the case, and air their grievances.

A teacher, who is also a mother with a child with cystic fibrosis, was in tears as she tried to speak at the podium.

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“It’s hard to hear he doesn’t have the right to be safe at school,” she said. “As a kindergartner, he does wear his mask. My third-grade class last year, they rallied around me at the end of the year” because they knew she did not want to take the virus home to her child.

“Think about others,” she said.

Marsha Cook said her son had sores last year from his mask. She said there is bacteria in the masks.

“Other schools are not mandating masks,” she said. “I understand there’s kids with issues that need to wear masks … My son shouldn’t have to when he doesn’t have those issues.”

Others in the room began yelling, saying, “You guys have failed your schools already.”

At about this point in the meeting, LaFerla called a recess.

“Are you guys really prepared for all those lawsuits?” one man said. “Show me the science that shows masks work. It ain’t going to save you. You guys are stirring up a fight -- and I’m going to fight.

“We can vote these people out today,” he told the crowd. He asked for a second and a third, then a hand vote. “They’ve failed everybody!”

The crowd could not, in fact, vote out the board at the meeting.

As more people began yelling, the board members quietly left the room, followed by school employees. A police officer entered and stood at the side of the seats, watching. Then two more entered, then another.

Eleven parents and The Arc of Iowa, a group that defends the civil rights of people with disabilities, sued the state and a handful of school districts on Sept. 3. On Monday, a federal judge put a temporary block on the law, effective immediately.

Judge Robert Pratt said in an order Monday that the law substantially increases the risk of several children with health conditions of contracting COVID-19, according to an Associated Press article.

“Because Plaintiffs have shown that Iowa Code section 280.31’s ban on mask mandates in schools substantially increases their risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19 and that due to their various medical conditions they are at an increased risk of severe illness or death, plaintiffs have demonstrated that an irreparable harm exists,” he wrote.

Pratt’s order said Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo cannot enforce the new law banning local school districts from using their discretion to mandate masks for students, staff, teachers and visitors.

He said that almost 40 years earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that, regardless of citizenship status, denying school-aged children a free public education violates the U.S. Constitution.

Tuesday’s meeting of the Council Bluffs Community School District Board of Education took a turn during a discussion about masks, as anti-mask attendees began yelling at board members

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