GREEN RIVER — Parents and employees of Sweetwater County School District (SCSD) No. 2 expressed further concerns regarding masks and quarantines during Tuesday night’s Board of Trustees meeting.
Last week during a special meeting, the board made changes to the 2021-22 Smart Start Plan in which they changed wording from “optional” to “recommended” regarding face masks.
The changes also deviated from the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) guidelines so that if a student or staff member is wearing a face covering and/or is vaccinated when coming into contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, they will not have to quarantine unless they are showing symptoms.
Tuesday night, Laura Pearson, SCSD No. 2 bus driver and parent, said the changes to the plan are resorting to “mind games” by giving an incentive for people to wear masks or get vaccinated to avoid quarantines.
“My opinion is that the plan you have put in place, even though you say it was developed to leave families with the freedom to choose is actually to coerce families to get their children vaccinations and opt to wear a mask to be able to stay in school. Mind games? Is this what we’re resorting to?” Pearson said.
“You said last week that we need to be really careful about not making our children pawns. But you are creating this,” Pearson added. “…You are using our children to push masking and vaccination by making these two options an incentive for not being quarantined. These manipulations need to stop.”
She continued by saying that the letter sent home to parents who have a child that is placed under quarantine infringes upon peoples’ constitutional rights. Pearson read part of the letter which provides guidance to parents on how to properly quarantine their child. The letter states parents should keep their child in quarantine, stay home, not go to work or school, and that they can go outside on their property and exercise outdoors if they’re not in contact with others.
“I will never comply to this and any board or staff member that agrees with that paragraph needs to resign immediately,” Pearson said. “We have constitutional rights and no school official is going to hand me a paper telling me where my child is and is not allowed to go.”
SCSD No. 2 Board Chairman Steve Core expressed his offense in response to Pearson’s comments and disagreed with her accusations against the board and districts in their treatment of students.
“I’m not resigning my board seat, hate to break the bad news to you,” Core said.
“The fact that you are accusing this board, I take offense and am frankly disappointed that you’re saying that we’re playing mind games with our kids, that we’re coercing our kids, that we’re using them as pawns, and we’re manipulating them. I take offense to that,” Core added.
Other parents who spoke against mask mandates and quarantines were Melissa Moffat and Laura Scott. Moffat claimed that masking and quarantines have negative effects on children, citing an op-ed by two doctors and an article from Psychology Today. According to Moffat, masking kids “disrupts learning” and “can amplify negative emotion”, and quarantining can amplify or lead to negative emotions.
Scott stated that masks may be okay for some kids, but not for all. Chairman Core emphasized that the district does not have a mask mandate.
“It needs to be stated that we do not have a mask mandate in this district. Kids that wear masks, teachers that wear masks, employees that wear masks do so by choice. It’s a parent’s choice to determine whether they want their child to have a mask. We do not have a mandate,” Core said.
Scott also pointed out inconsistencies with testing and quarantining. She said her son was in contact with someone who tested positive and said she was not informed until her son had already been in school all week. Her son was going to have to miss a peewee football game and picture day, so Scott said she got upset.
The secretary at the school later called Scott and said her son could take a rapid test at the high school and if he tested negative, he could come to school the next day for picture day. Scott’s concern is that this option is not offered to everyone.
“I don’t understand why this isn’t available to all the kids, because I have a friend and she tried to do that and they told her it was only available for high school students. And that’s not fair for my child to be able to do that and not hers. I just think it’s not consistent,” Scott said.
Chairman Core agreed the district needs to be more consistent.
Briana Fuller, P.E. and health teacher at Harrison Elementary, asked the board what the end goal is with quarantines. She said the main priority should be to keep students in school.
She added that the district needs to ensure they are providing education to students who are under quarantine.
“When students are quarantined, there’s no consistency for students and parents for what’s being provided at home to further their education and when kids are coming back, they’re behind and struggling to catch up,” she said.
Fuller also said a few districts in the state have made quarantines optional, and some districts are not doing any contact tracing. She suggested the district look into those districts’ plans.
“Our top priority is to do what’s best for students in our district and I think we need to do better,” Fuller said.
Watch the full meeting and discussion below: