Williams Valley Calls Off School Board Meeting, Cancels In-person Classes Amid Mask Protest
Things got a little dicey at the planned Williams Valley school board meeting Thursday night.
The school says the planned meeting – a special meeting called in response to the state mask mandate – “could not take place … based on events.”
In a phone call with The Canary later on Thursday, Tower City Mayor Dan Daub described to us what “events” he saw unfold both outside and inside the school that led to the school board calling off the meeting.
Williams Valley Holds Wild School Board Meeting That Wasn’t a Meeting
While the topic at hand was the mask mandate, Williams Valley previously announced that it intended to follow the order handed by the Tom Wolf administration back on Aug. 31. In an announcement posted to the school’s website, it even mentioned how masks are effective against COVID.
That’s debatable, surely, but apparently Williams Valley school board members aren’t into having that debate.
Daub says about 50 people lined up outside Williams Valley High School Thursday for this special meeting. Many were there to protest the school adhering to the mandate. He said 2 State Police troopers were positioned at the driveway entrance to the school. And there was a metal detector everyone had to pass through to get into the building.
But it never really got that far, at least not right away.
Participants were advised they had to wear a face mask to enter the school in addition to passing through a metal detector. Some weren’t keen on wearing the mask, especially as a caveat to attending the meeting scheduled for Thursday inside the school.
One of those people, Daub says, is Dauphin County District Judge Rebecca Jo Margerum. She was at or near the front of the line trying to get into this school board meeting. She wasn’t wearing a mask and that, along with others not wearing a mask, didn’t sit well with those enforcing that rule.
So, Daub describes, Margerum and a group of about 10 people enter the school regardless of their mask usage. That prompted a response from the nearby State Police because the school officials apparently couldn’t deal with it or didn’t want to deal with it.
Those who entered the school building in defiance of the mask order were temporarily detained in the school but it’s not believed any charges have been filed in the incident. Eventually, the people outside got in expecting to see and participate in the school board meeting. But they only got as far as the school lobby.
That’s when Williams Valley announced that the regular school board meeting had been moved to Sept. 13. There’d be no meeting Thursday night.
Daub says the Williams Valley Superintendent faced the music from the school board and delivered the news. He said the board “voted” 8-0 in favor of cancelling the meeting on Thursday.
Here’s the problem … a school board can’t “vote” if it doesn’t call a meeting to order. No meeting, no vote. It’s that simple. That, if true, is a clear violation of the Pennsylvania open meeting laws.
Also, sending the Superintendent and not a member of the school board to inform the public? Pretty cowardly on the part of the school board.
“I don’t elect Superintendents. I elect school board members,” Daub said.
Further, the school acted rather squirrely before and after the meeting, too.
According to Daub, Williams Valley sent a text alert to parents at about 6 p.m. Thursday, prior to the meeting. It read:
“WVSD will be open with in-person instruction beginning tomorrow, September 10, 2021.”
The school had been operating virtually earlier this week due to an alleged water issue. But that 6 p.m. text wasn’t valid for long.
Following the hijinks at the school board meeting that wasn’t a meeting, someone decided to cancel the in-person return to class for Williams Valley students.
The school sent a follow-up text message at 9:40 p.m. informing parents that, for starters, the school board meeting was moved to Monday and also, school would be virtual Friday and Monday.
Here’s how the text read:
“The 9/9/21 WV board meeting could not take place as advised by law enforcement. New mtg date will be 9/13. Students virtual 9/10 & 9/13. Return in-person 9/14”
At about the same time, the school posted this message on Facebook:
The school is saying it was “advised by law enforcement” to not have the meeting. Odd advice, considering what the school board allegedly did in voting without a meeting is against the law.
You’d think people were at a fever pitch Thursday night at the school board meeting. Was Rep. Adam Kinzinger crying about it?
It wasn’t like that at all, Daub describes.
“No one was arrested. No one was carried out,” he says.
It’s one thing to violate the Pennsylvania open meeting laws. They all do it and it doesn’t matter to them because there’s no real penalty for doing so. But to react by canceling in-person school?