Violators of Rochester school board’s mask mandate will be banned for a year

The Rochester School Board has laid down the law: Zero tolerance for anyone in the audience who violates the district’s mandate to mask up at all times at school board meetings.

Some parents and other attendees of the board’s recent meetings have reportedly ignored the board’s requirement to don a protective mask on school district premises. The edict applies to anyone two and older.

From now on, violators will be strictly dealt with, according to the Post Bulletin’s coverage of the board’s new policy.

Anyone who refuses to comply with the mask mandate during Rochester School Board meetings will be considered trespassing, according to a new stance from the school district.

Board Chairwoman Jean Marvin read a statement from the board about the decision Tuesday. It is a significant increase in the board’s resolve to enforce the policy, which has been repeatedly challenged during recent meetings.

The purpose of school board meetings is the “importance of quality education for all students,” Marvin said at the beginning of the statement.

“Anything that happens during these meetings that draws attention away from that focus is taking attention away from children and their education. Our kids and their futures are just too important for us to let that continue,” Marvin read. “If you don’t want to wear a mask, don’t be here. Watch the meeting from home and email your thoughts to board members. Or call. Or write a letter. We’ll respond.”

The tough new policy takes effect immediately, following interruptions of past meetings over the issue. If necessary, police officers will be called in to enforce the mandate and escort “trespassers” from school property for a full year.

At the previous school board meeting, Marvin recessed the proceedings for 30 minutes since there were audience members unwilling to wear masks. During that same meeting, members of the public argued with school officials at the entrance about whether or not they had to wear masks in order to enter the building.

“We have implemented a policy that is very easy to understand,” Marvin read from the statement. “Starting tonight, if you choose not to wear an appropriate mask while you’re in this building, and when approached by an administrator you refuse to comply with their request to mask, you will be trespassed.”

At least one attorney who works with school boards claims Rochester appears to be within the scope of its authority to follow through on its threat to ban those who refuse to comply with the mask mandate.

Ken Schueler is an attorney who has worked with many school districts in the state on a variety of issues, including the Pine Island School District with its mask policy. Although not speaking on behalf of any school district specifically, he supported the notion that school boards have that level of authority.

“I haven’t seen one that I thought was a viable argument,” Schueler said about the arguments against school districts requiring masks. “What people forget is that there are rights created by the Constitution, but those are not unfettered rights. You have the right to free speech. However, that doesn’t give you the right to go into a crowded theater and scream ‘fire.’”

Recent Rochester School Board meetings have been contentious and well-attended by parents concerned over a variety of issues, including requiring their kids to wear masks. It will be interesting to see whether anyone tests the district’s resolve to remove parents from the premises at the board’s next meeting.