‘Chaos’ at start of board meeting as member, others escorted by police for refusing to wear masks – The Suffolk News-Herald


Suffolk Police have escorted several people, including Chuckatuck Borough School Board representative Sherri Story, from their meeting on Thursday after failing to comply with a directive from chairwoman Dr Judith Brooks-Buck to wear masks.

The start of the business session was delayed by 30 minutes as Story opposed a motion to withdraw her for not wearing a mask, and several people in the council chambers at City Hall where the meeting took place argued with Brooks-Buck and told him they would not be wearing a mask.
“Our protocol is that we are still under CDC COVID guidelines which we are following,” Brooks-Buck said after giving the hammer during the meeting. “Our mitigation strategies are still in place. All individuals who wish to be part of this meeting must follow these CDC guidelines and our mitigation protocols. All people not wearing a mask must leave this room. If you want relief from wearing the mask, (and) you’re not talking on the mic… you have to come out.

After that statement, a motion by Council Vice-Chair Phyllis Byrum and seconded by Karen Jenkins to have Story removed from the council chambers at City Hall where the meeting was held for failing to comply with the order of Brooks-Buck to wear a mask passed 4-2, with new council member Heather Howell joining Story in voting no and Jenkins abstaining.

“Please don’t have someone take you out,” Brooks-Buck said after the vote. “Please put on your mask.”

Story indicated she would not, and Brooks-Buck then said she would wait for a Suffolk police officer to remove Story from the meeting. Brooks-Buck then suspended the meeting for 10 minutes.

Brooks-Buck said if Story put on her mask, she wouldn’t be removed from the meeting. Story said if she was fired it would be at the peril of the board and threatened to sue. She called her impeachment a “power play” and that the board was ready to impeach her.

“I would say that none of you have the authority to remove an elected member of the school board on the basis of a mask,” Story said ahead of the vote. “We are not under a mask mandate. The Town Hall is not under hidden mandates. I am not an employee of the school board and I am an elected official. None of you have the power to pull me out of my seat right now for a mask. You do this at your own risk, but you know what will happen if you do this and you don’t have the power, and I’m not sure.

The story went on to say that Governor Glenn Youngkin made wearing masks in public optional. The Governor’s Executive Order 2 stated that parents could choose whether or not to have their children wear a mask at school. An Arlington County circuit court granted seven school boards a temporary restraining order against the executive order, while the state Supreme Court declined to hear a claim on procedural issues from Chesapeake parents who sued the governor over his decree, and he gave no opinion. on the legality of the order. The state Senate voted 21-17 on SB 739 to make masking optional for school students. The House of Delegates has yet to vote on the bill. If passed and signed by the governor, it will go into effect July 1, but it’s possible he could recommend an emergency clause that would ensure the law goes into effect as soon as he signs it. However, the House and Senate would have to approve such a decision.

“I’m an elected official, I’m not an employee,” Story said. “If you want to make employees and children wear a mask, you have the right, but you don’t have the right to do that to me as an adult, as an elected official. I don’t wear a mask.”

“So board member Story, you have to leave the meeting,” Brooks-Buck said.

“You didn’t hold the vote,” Story said. “I want to hear an oral vote on this.”

At the time, a voice could be heard in the bedroom saying “Thank you Ms. Story”, before a man could be heard saying he would not be wearing a mask, was in a public building and that he didn’t have to wear a mask. , and Brooks-Buck asking him to leave. She also asked Suffolk Police officers to escort anyone out of the meeting who is not wearing a mask. Another man who said he would not wear a mask said she could ask a Suffolk police officer to remove it.

“It’s City Hall, but today is a school board meeting,” Brooks-Buck said. “We indeed have the right to run the school board meeting no matter where we are. You must leave, sir, or put on your mask.

She said people, including Story, had the choice of wearing a mask and staying, or not wearing one and leaving. Brooks-Buck said everyone has rights, but people also have a right to their health and safety.

“Your rights end where ours begin,” Brooks-Buck said.

Another person said he had a medical reason for not wearing a mask, and when Brooks-Buck asked for such proof, he said he would not share his medical information.

She apologized for the late start of the working session.

“We were delayed for half an hour with chaos, unnecessary chaos,” Brooks-Buck said.

Later in the meeting, Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III addressed pending legislation in the General Assembly. He said he did not know when the bill would move forward, but for now, students should always wear a mask on the bus, regardless of the outcome of this bill, because it is is a federal law that supersedes state law. He said the bill is not directed at staff and that all visitors should still wear a mask on school property even if the bill passes. He said everyone must protect each other and said exposure to COVID-19 would only cause more disruption for students and staff.

“Students will have the option of wearing a mask,” Gordon said. “Just because it makes the mask optional, it also means it’s optional to continue wearing your mask.”

Gordon also said masks may still be required at school board meetings.

“The school board president has authority over the terms of the meeting,” Gordon said, repeating that phrase before adding, “I know we’ve had comments related to political elements and things of that nature. For us at SPS, and for me sitting in this seat, it’s not about that at all. It’s really about making sure we don’t have anything else that could potentially disrupt what has It’s already been a disruptive two years for our students and staff. That’s the whole base. It’s also part of why our mask regulations, mask mandates, are actually part of our dress code regulations. Now, if adjustments are made, we will make adjustments.

He said that for 99% of students, the school division had no problem with wearing masks at school. He said the division was still sending out letters for positive COVID-19 cases and closing classrooms, after closing two in the previous two days. He said the division had the support of the vast majority of its staff, as well as the Education Association of Suffolk and the Virginia Education Association.

“One of the things that a lot of people sometimes don’t want to admit is that it’s not really about infringing on your rights, it’s really about thinking about potential health issues, the person next to you,” Gordon said.

Brooks-Buck said less than five people complained to her about wearing masks and said many parents and staff thanked her for keeping the mask policy and ensuring safety people at school. The division has ordered 40,000 KN95 masks for SPS personnel. She said the council would abide by the law if and when it is implemented.


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