The Granite Board of Education meeting came to an abrupt end Tuesday night in South Salt Lake after a group of attendees became agitated when a patron was not allowed to address the board.
When the woman rushed to the lectern, she was not permitted to speak because she had not signed up for citizen participation time, said Granite School Board President Karyn Winder.
The crowd rose to its feet in protest and one man shouted: “Remember this day! Remember this day!”
Others chanted: “No more masks. No more masks. No more masks.””
The board moved to adjourn the meeting, left the room through a back door and the building was eventually cleared. The disruption was captured on a YouTube video of the meeting.
After the meeting adjourned, a man stood at the front of the auditorium and shouted, “If they’re going to leave, we’re going to take control.”
The largely unmasked audience, some clad in See My Smile T-shirts representing a parent organization seeking an end to the statewide health order that mandates masks in K-12 schools, boisterously cheered and applauded as one woman spoke against the order earlier in the meeting.
“One size does not fit all and adults who have higher risks should not project their fears or expect the youth to carry the burden of those fears. The burden of proof should be on the district not on the parents. Not only is there no proof that masks are the solution, there’s not even proof that it’s a good trade-off,” said Monica Wilbur.
Two others addressed the board, state Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, and Granite Education Association Executive Director Star Orullian, after which the board concluded citizen participation time.
The woman who was not permitted to speak questioned why Riebe was allowed to address the board.
“You let a senator come up here and speak in the name of my children who you guys are abusing? Are you serious?”
In an interview following the meeting, Riebe said she had requested to speak to the board two weeks ago.
Earlier Tuesday, the state of Utah crossed a threshold in three metrics outlined in HB294, passed by the Legislature in March, which means that most state and local health orders have come to an end.
However, the law allows health orders pertaining to K-12 schools, such as the wearing of masks, to remain in place through June 15 or the last day of classes, whichever comes first, according to the health department.
Orullian urged the board to continue the health and safety protocols that have enabled the district to successfully conduct school this academic year.
“So please do not change your game plan in the ninth inning and acquiesce. Your employees, your students and your parents, we have one month left. Please stay true to your guiding principles. Follow the governor and the health department,” she said.
Orullian, who was repeatedly interrupted as she spoke, replied, “I taught junior high school and you don’t scare me.”
Some audience members also jeered and interrupted Riebe, who did not speak about health orders.
“I will honor that people really just wanted to be heard but it deteriorated quite quickly. I was a little concerned about getting to my car,” she said.
Utah Parents United Facebook page earlier had urged parents to attend their local school board meetings to protest mask policies, noting “if you are sick and tired of what your kids are being put through, do your part and show up. Don’t think things are going to change if you don’t get involved. We need hundreds of parents!”
Riebe, who earlier in the evening addressed the Canyons School District, said as an elected official she wanted to acknowledge the hard work done by teachers and other school employees this year and to point out that school districts are among the largest employers in Salt Lake County.
“Education is grease and the glue of our communities and our partnerships with our cities and towns have steadied the economy during this tumultuous time and we appreciate that,” she said.
Lauren Nielsen, a teacher at Albion Middle School, said she wanted to give a shoutout to the school’s students and staff because the school did not have to shut down once this year due to the pandemic.
“I really attribute this to the excellence and diligence of our students wearing their masks at school and the united attempts of our staff to both model and encourage safe and considerate behavior. Our kids have been so resilient and absolute champs and it has truly paid off. We’re now on the homestretch of the school year and I just want to encourage the board to finish strong,” she said.