Tuesday’s Council Bluffs School Board meeting devolved into yelling, a 15-minute recess, and a call to the police over the district’s decision to reimplement a mask requirement.
From the beginning of the public comment session, the overwhelmingly anti-masking crowd shouted arguments against requiring students to wear masks and the situation escalated.
Parents also complained about their rights being taken away by the school district’s decision.
“It is a parent’s right to make those medical decisions, not teachers, not a judge, not anybody,” one mother said.
One man, who emphasized that the board was elected, yelled for the board to “get out of our seats.”
The man who spoke before the board took a 15-minute recess turned to the rest of the audience and suggested they vote the board out “today.” He also invited them to join him in a class-action lawsuit. As he spoke, the crowd got increasingly agitated.
Near the end of the public comment period, some parents had stood up from their seats, according to reporters in the room.
Two parents spoke in favor of the mask requirement.
Police called for backup and attendees were cleared from the meeting room. But the verbal altercations continued in the lobby and outside. One of the masked parents was escorted to her vehicle by police in the parking garage.
Before the public comment section opened, School Board President Chris LaFerla called for everyone to be respectful.
The Council Bluffs School District mask requirement started Wednesday. It requires students and faculty to wear masks in school buildings but allows medical and religious exemptions.
LaFerla also said there will be scheduled breaks from mask-wearing and that extracurriculars wouldn’t require masks.
US District Court Judge Robert Pratt put a temporary restraining order on the Iowa law that bans schools from requiring masks on Monday. His decision was part of a lawsuit backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and brought by the parents of students with disabilities, who argued banning masks violates their children’s federal right to equal education.
The Council Bluffs School District was one of the plaintiffs named in the federal lawsuit, and LaFerla emphasized the school district risked legal liability if it didn’t put the requirement in place.
“This ruling gives the school district this choice and this choice only,” he said. “Either require masks or be in violation of the civil rights of students with disabilities and all students in fact, and face lawsuits which, according to our legal counsel, we are likely to lose.”
by Nikoel Hytrek