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Parents protest student masking

Parents say they'll pull students if masks required

SPANGLE - More than 450 people stood on the Liberty High School baseball field Thursday evening, Aug. 12, singing the National Anthem.

A World War II-era P-51 fighter flew overhead, piloted by Jared Segebartt of Moscow, Idaho, as the "Stars and Stripes" waved in the wind.

Some in the crowd waved American flags; others hoisted signs demanding the governor rescind his edict requiring public school students to be masked when classes resume in the coming weeks.

On the dais, 9th Legislative District Republican lawmakers Sen. Mark Schoessler of Ritzville, Reps. Joe Schmick of Colfax and Mary Dye of Pomeroy; and Lewiston businessman and freedom activist Gary Peters encouraged parents, teachers and residents to stand up for the youth in their community.

Parents, teachers and others came from as far away as Pomeroy, Ellensburg, Othello, Moses Lake, Okanogan and Reardan to demand an end to the student mask mandate.

Sheri Bartels of Spangle, one of the organizers of the event, called on the crowed to "stop this freight train" coming out of Olympia.

"We came here for one common goal - that is to take back our schools," she said, calling mandates from the Governor's Office and the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction a "six-headed monster."

The order to put face coverings on public school students returning to campus in the coming weeks is just the tip of the iceberg of illegal and inappropriate mandates from state agencies in violation of the state Constitution, she said.

"The school boards, they are not in charge anymore," she said, noting most rubber stamp recommendations directed by Superintendent of Public Schools Chris Reykdal or Gov. Jay Inslee.

Bartels said threats to school districts to obey the mask mandate or lose funding is "extortion," and a violation of the state constitution.

It may also be a violation of the state Supreme Court's McCleary Decision, which said the state has a constitutional duty under Article IX Section 1 to "make ample provision for the educate all children" living in the state.

Bartels reminded the crowd that the constitution grants jurisdiction to local boards, not a health district employee, over schools.

"I don't remember electing anyone from the health department," she said, calling on parents to resist mask mandates.

Peters, too, called on parents and teachers to openly oppose the illegal mandates.

A native of Pomeroy, he said parents are not just facing one battle, but a war for control of their children's education.

"This is not going away," he said. "You are all the grass roots movement; it starts right here."

Peters said parents fighting for their children are also fighting for the nation.

And it won't be easy to win.

"You want to get these politicians to pay attention, you have to hammer them. You blow their phones up," he said, calling on event-goers to be prepared.

"You're going to be attacked," he said.

Amy Swannack of Lamont said the attacks have already begun, even at the local school and university level.

Swannack said her daughter, a recent graduate, is enrolled in a university out-of-state.

"I was not going to pay for a school that was going to force medications," she said, noting she's also pulled a younger child out of St. John High School because of mask mandates.

"I will not put my son in a mask," she said. "This is crap. I'm done."

As a homeschool student, under state law, Swannack's son is allowed to play sports in the local public school district.

Swannack said her son, a basketball standout in St. John, will be playing for the Eagles' without a mask.

"My child will be on the team; he will not be wearing a mask," she said.

Rep. Dye commended her passion, and suggested she get an "army" of parents "willing to blow it up."

"We have healthy kids out here," Rep. Dye said. "Push back."

Othello City Councilman Jon Erickson, too, agreed.

He blasted Gov. Inslee and Reykdal for only allowing a "one-sided" discussion of masks in schools.

"If we're not getting the whole store, we're not getting educated, we're being indoctrinated," he said. "There's no such thing as freedom of choice if there's no freedom to refuse."

Taking a turn on the microphone, former Liberty School Board member Gail Liberty said neither Reykdal nor Gov. Inslee have any right to threaten parents with taking school funding away.

"Don't give us threats of defunding our schools," she said. "Don't you dare."

Liberty questioned if the Legislature was looking into the legality of the threats or actual defunding.

Rep. Schmick said the Republic caucus has attorneys looking into it.

He also pointed out that even if it is illegal, Gov. Inslee appointed many of the judges in the state, the same judges who would be asked to decide if the governor and/or Reykdal violated the state Constitution and state law.

Sen. Schoesler, however, said parents shouldn't worry about that.

He said parents should use the litigation tool to keep pressure on Olympia.

"You have to be prepared to lose the first round and appeal," Rep. Dye added. "But this is our time to take back our schools."

St. John School Board member Valerie Brewer said it'll take more than just one protest to take back schools.

To eliminate mask mandates, she said parents need to "get all the school boards together and say we're not doing it."

Natalie Voigt of Fairfield said students, too, need to get involved.

"What if kids show up without a mask," she said.

Rep. Schmick said the state would likely take it out on parents by attempting to fine school district that don't enforce the mask requirement.

Besides parents and students, several public school employees said they too oppose the masks. They went one step further and said they won't obey any mandatory vaccination order, should the governor decide public school employees to mandate inoculation.

Ellensburg Spanish teacher Kim Tharp said she opposes masks and vaccine mandates.

When teachers and students wear masks, you can't read expressions, demonstrate enunciation or even hear pronunciation.

"This whole thing is about control, not health or safety," the teacher said. "It's an issue of choice."

Tharp said she could lose her job for not enforcing a mask order, or possibly refusing a vaccination.

"He's (Gov. Jay Inslee) the selfish one for making a choice for me," she said. "I don't want to risk my freedoms or my life because someone else says that they know better."

While the lawmakers appeared receptive to the concerns of protesters, some members of the crowd challenged them to stand up for parents who choose not to mask their children.

Some also challenged them to stand up for school workers who refuse masks and will likely refuse any mandatory vaccine.

"Are you going to protect staff who take a stand," a woman who identified herself only as Angie of Lamont" asked.

It's too late for some longtime public school employees, Ron Cockle said.

Cockle drives a school bus in the Liberty district.

"I've chosen not to drive after 20-plus years," he said.

Cockle said parents, students and educators need help.

"We're in the 11th hour and you're not helping us," he said.

"I haven't heard one thing that is helping us," protester Joel Wagner added.

Unless lawmakers stand up, parents will have no choice but to pull their children out of public schools, Wagner said.

"The kids need to not go to school," he said. "We don't like you're rules; we're not going."

Author Bio

Roger Harnack, Publisher

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Roger Harnack is co-owner and publisher of Free Press Publishing. An award-winning journalist, photographer, editor and publisher who grew up in Eastern Washington, he's one of only two Washington state journalists ever to receive the international Golden Quill for editorial/commentary writing. Roger is committed to preserving local media, and along with it, a local voice for Eastern Washington.


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