‘We’re not gonna back down’: School mask mandate protests continue at local school district



Montour moved its Sept. 17 meeting outdoors allowing anti-mask protesters to speak.

-MONTOUR-


By Jamie Wiggan


A month after school directors approved district-wide mask mandates during a testy August meeting, several parents returned to the school board Sept. 17 to declare their continued opposition.


“We’re not gonna back down, we’re not gonna let up on this,” said Jennifer Pecori of of Kennedy. The six registered speakers voiced a range of concerns about the policy, including potential social and developmental costs borne by children and doubts about the district’s methodology and motivations.


Another Kennedy resident, Denise Deltondo, even suggested mask-wearing may have contributed to three recent suicides reported among the student body.


“There’s something going on mentally with our children,” said Deltondo, who told the board she has a background in education.


For their part, school officials claimed their hands were tied, with the matter now settled by state policy.

“People have to advocate to the state governor,” said Superintendent Christopher Stone.

Shortly after Montour’s board approved the mask mandates, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf passed an executive order requiring districts state-wide to enforce such policies, as coronavirus cases soared once again.


Stone said districts failing to comply with the order were at risk of losing funding.

Mark Hutter, school board president, told those protesting he “appreciated” their concerns but indicated the board was not looking to change its course in the short term.


The tone of the September meeting, held outdoors in the gymnasium courtyard, remained calmer than the previous month’s, where threats were voiced and one speaker was escorted away by security.


The crowd occasionally descended into jeers and boos -- especially when one speaker was denied permission to speak about a non-agenda item -- but some of the protestors also voiced appreciation for the opportunity to express dissent and thanked them for hosting it outdoors to mitigate mask mandates.


Between the two meetings, parents and residents, including some who addressed the board, gathered outside the high school campus on the morning of Sept. 10 to hold a protest.


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