VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A Volusia County School Board meeting that was set to start at 1 p.m. Tuesday was instead delayed when a group of maskless mothers refused to put on facial coverings.
Items on the agenda include adopting a new COVID-19 mask mandate policy that would apply to anyone on campus and adopting a policy that would set guidelines for how district employees use social media.
The meeting started more than an hour late Tuesday at about 2:30 p.m., after DeLand police officers trespassed the women and removed them from the building.
According to footage from the incident, the women claimed they had medical exemptions that allowed them to not wear masks in public.
Volusia County School Board meeting off to an explosive start. Board members will discuss social media policy for teachers/ staff and adopting a mandatory face covering policy. Below are couple of parents/ demonstrators arguing with the school district that they can't be forced to wear a mask at the board meeting.Posted by Loren Korn News 6 on Tuesday, October 27, 2020
"We’re not here to protest, we’re here to speak... We’ve already talked to the lawyer from the city and he’s already told us if you have a medical reason you do not need to wear a mask. This is not OK. This is called coercion. This is called a return to previous times in history, I won’t label them. We live in a free country, this is a free city. DeLand city told us we don’t have to do this,” Rachael Cohen said.
Officers from the DeLand Police Department arrived at about 1 p.m. and when they did, Cohen turned to the group turned to the other maskless mothers and asked them to take care of her three children who were outside.
“No, I will not walk outside. I’m not leaving this building. Gov. DeSantis needs to see this, this is what’s happening in his state. I hope that President Trump sees this as well. This is not what we stand for as a country,” the woman told the officer.
The Volusia County School Board attorney told the women that even though the meeting was being in held DeLand, the district’s mask policy applied.
“You all can choose to either leave, wear a mask, go out and come in without a mask to speak and then leave or be removed,” he said.
The women were ultimately trespassed but not arrested.
“I’m being pulled out of the room, OK? This is America 2020, I’m arrested for sitting in a room,” Cohen said as she was being escorted out.
Police said they weren’t enforcing the school district’s mask policy but instead were following the law by removing the women from the building after they were trespassed.
“As seen in the body cam footage released today and other video that has circulated, Volusia County School staff and our officers attempted to peacefully resolve the situation by offering accommodations for the citizens to participate in the meeting without having to wear a mask. After roughly an hour, the two sides failed to come to an agreement and school board officials requested the citizens be trespassed from the property. Despite being trespassed and being asked by officers on multiple occasions to leave the property, some of the citizens refused and had to be removed from the building,” DeLand Police Department officials wrote in a statement Wednesday.
The department also released body camera footage from the meeting, which is embedded below.
Warning: Video contains graphic content, viewer discretion is advised.
About an hour into the body camera video, a woman told officers that she was unwilling to leave because her baby was breastfeeding at the moment. After repeated requests, she handed the baby to another woman and officers escorted her out of the building.
“All this for a mask. All this because you guys are sheep. You’re doing exactly what they say, you guys are a bunch of sheep. Next thing you know it’s going to be vaccines, you guys just going to sit there and (expletive) take it like little (expletive) sheep. Pathetic. You guys are pathetic,” the woman yelled as she was escorted out.
Cohen said her stance is that parents and students should have the right to choose whether or not they wear a mask on campus.
"It needs to be an option. If children come from families that want them to be masked, everyone has that right. We’re not asking to take that right away. We’re asking to be given the right to medical choice,” she said.
Ultimately, the district decided Tuesday to pass the extension of its mask policy.
Warning: Might have graphic language. Women were just trespassed and did NOT go quietly. #News6 School board meeting is now starting.Posted by Loren Korn News 6 on Tuesday, October 27, 2020