MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KRON) — A 4-year-old boy was sent home from his Mountain View school several days in a row for not wearing a mask, according to a letter acquired by KRON4 that was sent from his family’s lawyer to the school. In the letter, the attorney said that the boy was subjected to “bullying, discrimination and severe harassment” by Mountain View Whisman School District employees.
The boy, whose name KRON4 is withholding from this story, is a student at Theuerkauf Elementary School. His family’s attorney, Tracy Henderson, wrote the letter to the school’s principal.
Henderson’s letter said that the boy’s teacher sent him home “visibly disheveled and inconsolable by his mother for over two hours.” The teacher had “said nothing about any incidents,” the letter said.
“It is time to let parents decide what is best for their children in relation to COVID,” Henderson said.
The boy’s parents said they asked the school for special accommodations because their son has sensory issues but received none.
MVWSD previously had a policy that required masking indoors for all students and staff. As of August 18, the school district changed the policy to make it recommended but not required. The incidents involving the young boy happened before the change was made.
Local COVID transmission rates dropped from “high” to “medium,” which spurred the change, according to MVWSD’s website. Masks are still required at large events and on buses.
In the letter, Henderson makes the case that there is no circumstance in which a child should be sent home due to masking rules. Henderson cited both state law, which struck down a mask requirement in schools on March 11, and Santa Clara County Department of Health guidance.
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“Tragically, instead of creating a learning environment where scholars thrive, educators… took it upon yourselves to act in the role of a health officers to ‘police’ students in regards to mask wearing,” the letter said.
The District Superintendent issued the following statement on the incident:
“We continually offer support to all students who feel hesitant about masks so that they can attend school. Often this means that teachers and staff go above and beyond the call of duty to find ways to help students adjust to school. Something that often goes unseen or even unacknowledged.”
MVWSD issued the following statement in response:
Our primary responsibility as a school district is the safety of students and staff members in order to create a peaceful learning and working environment for all on our campuses. Sadly, our schools are caught in a precarious position between groups who have strong opinions about COVID protocols and masking on both sides.
We very much understand that there are strong feelings about masking on both sides. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve had only one student whose parents have not allowed them to comply with MVWSD’s COVID masking rules, resulting in them not being able to attend school. We continually offer support to all students who feel hesitant about masks so that they can attend school. Often this means that teachers and staff go above and beyond the call of duty to find ways to help students adjust to school. Something that often goes unseen or even unacknowledged.
It’s very unfortunate that this parent chose to video record one of our principals after she repeatedly asked him not to. This parent worked with an advocacy group outside Mountain View to create a professional video in order to nationally shame a public servant doing her job while maintaining a safe and orderly school. In all of our time in the pandemic, only one parent has resorted to these tactics taken from a national playbook on how to disrupt educational environments.
Our kids were in masks for only 8 days this year while community spread was High. As we’ve stated earlier this month in our COVID guidelines, reaching the level of “Medium” as set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines means masking in our schools can be voluntary. The data dropped to “Medium” on Aug. 18, and masking became recommended but not required on Aug. 19.
I’m disappointed that civil discourse is no longer the rule. While I understand that not everyone will agree with every position we take, it is completely unacceptable to harass an employee in such a way that they and parents no longer feel safe at their own school. Regardless of whether you are new to our school community, or someone who has had multiple students matriculate through our walls, it is important that everyone understands that there are social mores about how Mountain View residents engage with each other. While I have experienced a lot of unique situations in my 25 years in education, I have never seen someone resort to making someone feel unsafe as a way to prove their point. We, the community of Mountain View, are better than that.
I firmly stand behind our Principal and our MVPD officers in their work. I want to commend the many parents throughout our wonderful city for expressing their support for the Principal. I commend everyone who, despite their personal stance on this issue, focused on the bigger picture. I’m eternally grateful for the parent(s) who stood at the front of the school and asked the media not to snap pictures of our students for the sake of trying to fill the void in a slow news cycle. Each of you should be commended for modeling the importance of civility for all of our children, even when emotions are high. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to each and every one of you.