Cary School District 26′s board has rescheduled a recent meeting after a group of parents acted “disruptive and uncivil,” and refused to wear masks as required, resulting in a call to police.
Before Aug. 30′s regularly scheduled school board meeting, a group assembled in the audience and refused to wear masks, which now are required indoors per Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive order, according to a letter from board members sent to District 26 families following the incident.
“This group was reminded several times that a mask is currently required to be worn in all school buildings and the district offered them masks so they could stay,” according to the letter . “Unfortunately, the start of the meeting was delayed as the Board waited for members of this group to put masks on. Health and safety rules of the School District were violated along with several acts outlined in Board Policy 8:30 by acting in a manner that was both disruptive and uncivil.”
According to a police report the Northwest Herald obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, police were dispatched at 7:11 p.m. to Cary Junior High School. When they arrived, school board members asked them to speak with the meeting attendees to get them to wear a mask or leave the building.
Even after police talked to the group, they still refused to comply with the mask requirement, according to the report.
“It was determined we would attempt to identify the people in attendance who were not wearing masks and report them to the McHenry County Department of Health,” according to the report. One officer got a list of license plates from the parking lot and was released from the scene, while two officers stayed for the rest of the meeting.
School Board President Deanna Darling said the board couldn’t start the meeting in that kind of environment, as things were “a little heated” and there were a large group of people who showed up unmasked.
“I need to ensure the safety of everyone in that room,” said Darling, who estimates there were about 40 people there. “It wasn’t safe. And it was not as civil as it should have been.” Darling said “everybody that was in that room during that meeting knows why the meeting had to be rescheduled.”
“We’ve all been through a lot in the last year and a half, all of us,” Darling said. “Emotions run high on certain issues. That’s just how it is.”
District 26 was one of the few McHenry County-area schools to make masks required for the 2021-22 school year before Pritzker issued the statewide school mask mandate. Currently, there is a statewide mask mandate for all residents age 2 and older because of rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. This has led to numerous protests in the area.
Darling said she does not know who called the police at the Aug. 30 meeting.
The board ended up going into a closed session, then voted to adjourn and reschedule the meeting to a later date.
Now, the finance and budget hearing portion of the meeting, where board members will vote on the budget for fiscal 2022, will take place via Zoom. Community members can send in public comments online.
Saying that the board “loves public comments,” Darling emphasized that shifting the meeting to a virtual platform was not meant to stop people from expressing themselves.
“This is necessary in order to consider time-sensitive district business,” board members wrote in the letter. “We believe the virtual platform is the best way to conduct the business of the district at this time, and the remaining agenda items will be moved to September’s Regular Board Meeting.”
District 26 isn’t that much different from other school districts, which also have seen people showing up to express their opinions on masking, Darling said.
“We have an obligation to the community to conduct the business of the school district in a safe and timely manner, and as adults, we share a responsibility to model the behaviors we teach and expect D-26 students to display in their classrooms and around the community,” board members said. “This includes expressing differences in opinions in a respectful, honorable way, in accordance with the student code of conduct. This is not about stopping people from expressing their opinions. We encourage participation from the community, but only when it’s done in a safe, civilized and respectful manner.”