Tonasket students protesting mask mandate being marked absent

Credit: Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle, Youtube

TONASKET, Wash. – Tonasket students protesting the state’s mask mandate are being placed in the gym until they decide to go home or put on a mask. 

Students have been protesting masks for the past few days. 

Superintendent Steve McCulloh sent a note to families on Monday night saying that they needed to come up with a plan to continue the district’s mission of learning while the protests continue. 

He said the district respects families’ rights to protest, but the district is also tasked with “ensuring that the disruption to the learning environment remains minimal.” 

Students who refuse to mask are being marked as absent from class. This is the equivalent of being marked absent for illness. 

RELATED: Local school district risks losing funding by defying state mask mandate

In a Facebook video, McCulloh said that many of these students are not being picked up by their parents, so the district had to find a place to keep them safe. The district decided the gym was the best place and it is now being treated as a study hall for these students. 

PE classes are being relocated while the gym is being used. 

Students staying in the gym during this time are expected to follow set rules. 

They cannot have their cell phones, they have to stay in assigned seats and if they have a question, they will need to raise their hand and wait to be called upon. 

Students who want to leave the supervised area can do so at any time, but they will either have to put on a mask or go home. 

“While discipline action will not be taken based on your decision to peacefully protest, discipline action will be taken if you do not follow the above expectations,” the district said. 

Additionally, students who are absent from three class periods or more may not participate in any practice or sports game that day unless authorized by the office, principal, assistant principal or athletic director. 

The protest comes on the heels of the state superintendent saying he wants to make masks optional in school settings. No action has been taken to lift the mandate at this time, so districts are required to continue following the mandate or risk losing state funding.

READ: Parents, students protest mask mandate at Tonasket School District

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