Two high school students in Temecula, California are being punished after refusing to mask up for what they cited as religious reasons, leading one over-dramatic teacher to place the school on lockdown and evacuate her classroom on the first day of school.
Victoria and Drew Nelson, a junior and senior respectively, were asked to put on their masks or leave their classrooms.
Victoria got into an altercation with her teacher as she tried to evacuate with her classmates. The principal was eventually called to Victoria’s classroom following the incident with her teacher.
‘I need you to stand up or we will have to physically remove you from the classroom,’ said the principal.
(Source: Fox 11)
‘Please don’t touch me,’ the teenager replied.
“When I would go left, she would follow me. I was trying to go around her and she would block me so eventually I just gave up,” Victoria told Fox 11.
Drew, however, did not have the opportunity to stand up for himself as he was sent to the principal’s office immediately.
A special police officer called a “school resource officer” (SRO) and deputies were eventually dispatched to the school according to Fox 11, to intervene in the tense situation. SROs are only called when there is an imminent threat to the students and staff, but the school refused to disclose the threat that the Nelsons posed, citing privacy concerns.
The school released a statement in response to the incident:
“As a public charter school, Springs Charter Schools is requiring to comply with all CDPH orders, including the mask mandate, in order to protect the health and safety of our staff and students, which is our highest priority. To this end, students and staff are required to wear a mask while in school facilities. There are no religious exemptions in the state mask order nor has the right to an exemption even been recognized by the Supreme Court because it’s a neutral law of general application to protect public health. We are still investigating the specifics of the incident.”
In what seems like a rather overblown reaction, the siblings have been banned from attending the school ever again, mask or not.
“The whole situation, it’s sad to have something that we both believe in so strongly, and it’s not an excuse it’s truly what we believe,” Victoria, the rising junior told Fox 11.
“Regardless of whether or not you’re deeply religious or an atheist, Muslim or a Christian, it applies to you,” Legal expert Jessica Levinson says of the mask mandate. “People tend to hear over and over, ‘Oh, there’s two reasons you can be exempt from mandates: medical reasons and religious reasons.’ There’s so much complexity and nuance.”
For now, the Nelsons will be allowed to complete their curriculum from home as independent study, where they will have access to resources and teachers.
Their parents will meet with the district concerning future steps soon.
“This is just getting beyond and beyond,” Gary Nelson, father of the teens, voiced his frustration.
“We thought the school would care what we believe in but they just didn’t even care enough to listen,” Victoria said.
Required mask mandates in schools are currently being debated across the country. However, even uber-liberal outlets like the New York Magazine are starting to dive into data provided by the CDC as evidence for new restrictions and guidelines, and what they’ve found is that there is no clear benefit from school mask mandates.
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