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Utah leaders, educators, parents react to school board meeting that was ended by anti-mask protest

Posted at 10:02 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 10:27:26-04

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah — Many across the state from Capitol Hill to the classroom are reacting to Tuesday night's Granite School District board meeting.

“To act in that manner in such a… uncivil way it was very disappointing and disheartening” Ben Horsley, the Granite District Public Information Officer told FOX 13.

During the interview, Horsley highlighted that the district loves to hear from their parents and those involved in the district but says that this meeting was out of line.

The video from the meeting shows public comments which lasted about 10 minutes quickly escalating into a yelling match between members of the audience and the board of Granite School District.

Read - Hale Centre Theatre no longer requires guests to wear masks

Many people in the audience can be heard shouting “No More Masks” as even more parents walked to the front of the room. The board decided to adjourn quickly and Granite School district police escorted them out of the room as parents then took over the meeting.

"Since they're going to leave, we are going to take control” one parent rallied the group from the front of the room with another coming from the back screaming “End the mask mandate now!” That call turned parents to start a vote with the first screaming “I motion… I motion…” and everyone raising their hands to symbolize that they were in agreement.

“To be clear, at no point on last night's agenda was the mask mandate a part of that discussion” Horsley said. Granite stated that this will all have to be dealt with at a later date as well. One of the agenda items that was not covered was Teacher Appreciation Day.

“The way those parents or patrons or strangers behaved last night on Teacher Appreciation Day..." said Deborah Gaterell, a teacher with Granite School District. “It's one thing to be upset about the mask but it's something else entirely to behave like an unruly mob.”

Gaterell is not alone amongst her peers, many of whom took to social media to express their dissatisfaction with the way the group behaved.

“That behavior would not be tolerated in my classroom let alone and it was completely inappropriate in a public meeting,” she said.

Read - U of U treats patient with suspected case of blood clots from J&J vaccine

The driver behind some of the attendees was the group Utah Parents United, which aims to abolish masks in K-12 schools.

The group had attended several different board meetings that night as well as encouraging parents to go with the hopes of voicing their opinions.

“We do not endorse or sanction those actions that lead to a mob rule mentality," said Utah Parents United spokeswoman Corrine Johnson.

Johnson says that the parents whose actions led to the meeting being shut down were not a part of the group but instead very angry parents who acted as individuals.

While she doesn't endorse what happened, Johnson admits she understands it by saying “The school districts have the choice to let parents be heard and, when those parents weren't heard, that was the straw that broke the camel's back for them.”

Gaterell said she is skeptical that those in the audience were affiliated with Granite School District.

“I am not even sure that everyone who participated in that meeting is a Granite patron, let alone a granite parent," she said.

Read - Utah's governor will not lift the K-12 mask mandate

Utah Governor Spencer Cox has said he will not repeal the mask mandate for Utah's K-12 schools. He said it's necessary to keep students in class and avoid shutting down schools when there's an outbreak.

When approached by parents at the GOP convention over the weekend, Cox said, “Let me tell you right now that we are not doing masks in the fall. That's not our plan . . . cross my heart.”

The state health department has extended its public order for K-12 schools until June 15th or the end of the school year, whichever comes first.

As for Granite School District, this has not changed their stance on the mandate at all.

"The order on the mask mandate was just re-upped just yesterday through the end of the school year. It was the only portion of public health orders to be re-upped” Horsley said. "[It's] a little bit ironic that this continues to be a hinge point for some people.”