OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Blue Valley School District parents were left frustrated Tuesday when an emergency hearing over masks in schools abruptly ended before it even got started.
The hearing was required by state law after two parents filed complaints about the district’s mask requirement.
Blue Valley hired a third-party hearing officer to conduct the meeting, required under the newly enacted Kansas Senate Bill 40, after parents filed requests to challenge the district’s mask mandate. But before any testimony, the hearing officer announced an interruption.
“We’re not going to begin until the gentleman in the back either wears a mask or leaves. I’m sorry,” he said.
A man sitting at the back of the room refused to do so.
“I think we’re just going to have to clear the room and start over,” the hearing officer said.
The move didn’t sit well with parents.
“I have a feeling when I leave the room, he’s going to stay,” one woman said.
“Well I stand with this gentleman to observe his Constitution rights,” another woman said.
Police officers confronted the unmasked man inside and again as the room cleared.
“You want to come outside?” the officer said.
Ultimately, district personnel announced the meeting was off.
“The hearing is canceled. It’ll be rescheduled virtually,” the staffer said.
“You are kidding me right now,” a parent said.
The man sparking the commotion, and everyone else, was escorted out. He did not talk publicly.
“Are you going to speak? We’d love to hear what you’d like to say,” a parent said.
Dave Trabert supports the parents’ efforts to have a district review of the mask policy as allowed by law, and he’s frustrated no one got a chance for their voices to be heard.
“What should happen is people should be allowed to exercise their due process rights under the law without intimidation, and that’s not taken place here,” said Trabert with the Kansas Policy Institute.
Parents who support mask requirements are upset, too, and hope Blue Valley will keep the policy to protect students and staff.
“This is not the time to get relaxed and lazy. This is the time to stay vigilant,” Blue Valley parent Sloane Heller said.
Blue Valley Schools have rescheduled the hearing for 7:30 a.m. Wednesday via Zoom. The school board will review the testimony and make its decision Thursday night. But the whole issue could still end up in the courts.