Blue Valley school board votes to keep mask requirement after parent challenges

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The Blue Valley School District board unanimously voted Thursday night to keep its face mask requirement after parents’ challenges forced a hearing on the matter.

Under the newly enacted Kansas Senate Bill 40, Blue Valley was required to hear parents’ arguments to the mask requirement and make a ruling. 

The district first tried to hold an in-person meeting, but it was abruptly canceled after a man refused to wear a mask. The hearing was then rescheduled to a virtual format Wednesday where more than 800 people logged on to make their case. Blue Valley hired a third-party hearing officer to conduct the meeting.

On Thursday, the school board then met to make its decision.

Roger Warren, the third-party hearing officer, told the district to stay the course.

“I didn’t really think that there was compelling evidence presented at the hearing that would create a need to revoke the current mask mandate. No compelling evidence that a less restrictive measure was available that would be as successful controlling the spread of COVID,” Warren said.

But the board had final say in the matter.

Ultimately, the school board unanimously decided to continue following its Navigating Change Policy, which includes the mask rule.

“We just got all students back in school, and we want all students to remain in school for the seven weeks we have left. I think we have 35 days of school left,” Superintendent Dr. Tonya Merrigan said.

“Man, we’re on the 2-yard line. I just hate to fumble here and do something that we might regret,” said Tom Mitchell, Blue Valley school board member.

The board also discussed that the parents’ challenges don’t have standing and were submitted in a timely matter because they weren’t submitted until S.B. 40 came into effect.

The district’s attorney argued that Kansas laws are proactive, not reactive. The mask policy was established more than 30 days ago, the district attorney said, and S.B. 40 requires a challenge within 30 days of a policy’s establishment.

But this might not be the end of the issue. If the challengers aren’t satisfied with Blue Valley’s decision, they have the option to sue in district court. They must decide if they would like to do that within 7 days.

FOX4 has a crew at Blue Valley’s board meeting Thursday night and will have more coverage of this decision on FOX4 News at 9 and 10 p.m.

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