EXCLUSIVE: Teacher Pulled Mask Over 4th Grader's Nose, Called Him Rude and Disrespectful Over Mask Refusal - Then Left Him Outside, Alone

EXCLUSIVE: Teacher Pulled Mask Over 4th Grader's Nose, Called Him Rude and Disrespectful Over Mask Refusal - Then Left Him Outside, Alone
Kamdin Hernandez leaves Garden Grove Elementary after being kicked out for not wearing a mask in class, August 13, 2021. CREDIT: Tim Hernandez/Instagram

As we reported exclusively last week, 9-year-old Kamdin Hernandez was left outside alone by school administrators then labeled a “clear and present danger” by his principal because he cannot wear a mask at school due to his ADHD and anxiety issues, and has now been excluded from in-person school – at the same time the school is considering him truant – and has been subjected to additional abusive and retaliatory actions since January 7, 2022.

Kamdin had been left outside alone by his teacher during the first week of school for not wearing a mask, showing that his struggle with wearing the mask at school didn’t just appear after Christmas break as Assistant Superintendent Hani Youssef alleged in a letter to Tim Hernandez, Kamdin’s father. The conflict between Hernandez and Youssef didn’t start then, either. In this piece and in the next article in the series we’ll go through those events in detail, but the bottom line is that this is a child whose needs weren’t being met by the school, and when his father attempted to advocate for him he was harassed and threatened by administrators at both the school and district level.

Some readers wondered why such detail was warranted in one single child’s situation. That’s a good question, and the answer is that versions of what Kamdin Hernandez and his family have endured and continue to endure are happening across the country to probably thousands of children, as is becoming more and more clear in the news.

Because this will be a long piece, here’s the TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) version of the events leading up to January, 2022, and the events covered in part 1.

  • 1st grade year (2019-2020), the father of a classmate verbally assaulted Kamdin after school, on the public sidewalk in front of Garden Grove Elementary. The school said there was no action that could be taken against the parent because the incident occurred on the public sidewalk.
  • 2nd grade year (2020-2021) Students returned to campus 2.5 hours a day from the beginning of November through the beginning of June. Kamdin had problems wearing mask and would come home crying.
  • In April and May, Tim Hernandez rode bikes with Kamdin to and from school because one of the family’s vehicles broke down. Even though he was socially distanced and outside while waiting to walk up to the gate to pick Kamdin up, the school wouldn’t accept his medical exemption for mask-wearing, and resorted to threats and intimidation to force him to wait on the public sidewalk to pick Kamdin up.
  • 3rd grade year (2021-2022) there were problems from the first week of school, with teachers calling Kamdin “rude and disrespectful,” physically pulling the mask up over his nose without permission, ignoring his complaint that he cannot think or do his work with the mask on due to his ADHD, leaving him alone outside during the school day to do his work, sending him home for “refusal” to wear the mask, culminating in the district charging Hernandez with trespassing for being on the school campus “without permission” though they had asked him to come pick Kamdin up.
  • A district investigation into the above concluded that there was nothing “belittling,” no retaliatory conduct against Kamdin or his dad occurred, and other puzzling findings.

Now, for the details.

In an interview with RedState, Tim Hernandez said that while Kamdin had been diagnosed with ADHD in early 2018 and has been on medication periodically, the family hadn’t sought a Section 504 Plan or an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) before the pandemic hit because his classroom teachers were great about working with him and basically taking the same measures they would if he had those plans in place, even working with the family when Kamdin’s medication dosage was adjusted.

Also, as the parents of kids with special needs know, the process takes a lot of time and effort, and the family was already going through the process with their younger son, who has Dravet Syndrome and epileptic seizures.

During the months Kamdin and the rest of the kids in the district were doing “distance learning,” from March through November, 2020, he really struggled due to his ADHD and was happy to go back to campus – even if it was only for two and a half hours a day. But the mask was a problem. He wanted to be there, so he tried to not let it bother him, but came home crying at times. Having an IEP or Section 504 plan wouldn’t have given him an advantage during the time classes were entirely virtual (since the district determined it could effectively deliver services virtually), but would have given him more rights regarding mask accommodations once he was back on campus. Regardless, even though he didn’t have a plan in place, the school was aware that Kamdin had ADHD and took medication at least a year prior to the time the pandemic started and it was noted in his school enrollment papers, according to Hernandez.

In April 2021 one of the family’s vehicles broke down and they couldn’t afford to get it fixed, so Hernandez started taking Kamdin to school by bike (Dad riding a bike, Kamdin on a scooter), and picking him up the same way. Hernandez says he never wore a mask to school pick-up, since he has a medical exemption due to PTSD after seeing combat in Afghanistan, but always socially distanced, and no one said anything to him about his maskless condition.

On May 5, though, frustrated that nothing was being done about his son’s struggles in the classroom and that Kamdin had even been yelled at for not wearing a mask while playing outside in 90-degree weather, Hernandez wore a t-shirt during pick-up that said:

Speak for the voiceless. Unmask our kids. Kids Lives Matter.

Tim Hernandez picks his son, Kamdin, up from school at Garden Grove Elementary School in Simi Valley, CA on May 5, 2021, in a t-shirt he made to bring attention to his son’s plight. CREDIT: Tim Hernandez/Instagram

After that day, according to Hernandez, other parents and the school started fussing. That led to another saga involving complaints to the school board that went all the way up to the California Department of Education (which recently ruled against the district) that will be covered in Part 3. The point for purposes of this story is that there was already a conflict between the administrators/principal and the Hernandez family before the 2021-22 school year.

When the 2021-22 school year started on August 11, the series of events listed at the beginning of the article took place, and Hernandez filed a complaint with SVUSD on August 17. The investigative report prepared by an outside attorney retained by the district is stunning in its blatant efforts to excuse away the school district’s actions and lack of documentation for assertions. Hernandez has appealed the findings to the California Department of Education, and that appeal is outstanding.

With all of that background – and because in light of what’s now happening in other California school districts where mass protests against mask mandates occurred last week, we know SVUSD was setting a precedent – let’s go through what happened during Kamdin’s first week of school and the “independent” investigator’s comments.

August 11, 2021

On the first day of school – after being able to go mask-free all summer – Hernandez said one of Kamdin’s teachers chastised him about the mask, saying, “I thought you were a good boy,”  which Hernandez says was belittling and inappropriate. Hernandez also reported that Ms. Perryman then asked Kamdin, “Do you want me to send you home?” when he wouldn’t pull the mask over his nose, which Hernandez considered a threat.

In the district’s investigative report, though, the investigator found that that’s not what the teacher said at all. Instead, he found that the teacher said:

I don’t get it. When I saw you in the mornings when I was taking everyone’s temperatures, you were so polite and friendly to me, and right now you’re being rude and disrespectful.

Now, bear in mind that we’re talking about a nine-year-old child. Calling the student rude and disrespectful for not doing something that is harmful due to his learning disability isn’t any better than saying, “I thought you were a good boy.”

Oh, but the investigator disagrees. He believes the comments weren’t belittling – and here’s how he arrived at that conclusion:

In the report, he wrote:

In reaching his conclusion, the Investigator considered the Merriam-Webster definition of the word “belittle,” which is a transitive verb meaning “to speak slightingly of,” “to disparage,” or “to cause (a person or thing) to seem little or less.” It was important to the Investigator to examine not only the precise words and the context surrounding what [the teacher] told [Kamdin], but to also consider the intent behind her words and where she was coming from.

Nowhere in the report did the investigator take into account the intent behind Kamdin’s – you know, the child in this situation – words and where he was coming from.

Well, if she wasn’t belittling him, what was she doing? In the investigator’s words, what the teacher said wasn’t even negative in any way – she was just sharing her truth.

He wrote:

Instead, the Investigator found [the teacher’s] words to be reflective of the disappointment, confusion, and frustration that [the teacher] was feeling due to Kamdin’s attitude and demeanor towards her.

She’s an adult and a teacher. Disappointment, confusion, and frustration should be familiar emotions she’s dealt with. Again, there’s no mention of the Investigator finding any of Kamdin’s words to be reflective of his disappointment, confusion, and frustration.

The conclusion is the cherry on top.

Having determined that [the teacher] did not belittle [Kamdin]…due to his improper mask usage, the Investigator also concludes that [the teacher] did not cause [Kamdin] emotional and psychological stress.

Hernandez immediately reported that incident to the principal, who did her own investigation but wouldn’t disclose the results to Hernandez, claiming it was a personnel issue. However, the district’s investigator concluded that the principal failed to comply with district policy, which requires that she inform the parent of the district’s complaint policy in such a situation. Under that policy, Hernandez is entitled to know the results.

August 12, 2021

On the second day of school, Kamdin’s substitute teacher approached him and physically moved his mask up over his nose when he refused to do so. There is no school district in which it is appropriate or allowed for a teacher to physically touch a student to gain compliance. The teacher admitted that she moved his mask up over his nose but claimed that she very carefully only touched the straps and never touched his skin. Although Kamdin said she did touch his skin and the teacher’s explanation strains credulity, the Investigator found that there was no evidence to show that she touched Kamdin.

Still, thankfully, the Investigator found that teacher’s actions were inappropriate.

August 13, 2021

When Kamdin’s mask wasn’t being worn up over his nose, a member of the school administration who had a good relationship went to his class to talk to him and attempt to gain compliance. According to a recorded phone call between Hernandez and the staffer, when asked why he wasn’t wearing his mask, Kamdin told the staffer that “He’s got ADHD, he’s got – he’s stressed out with the mask on. He can’t think, and he can’t do his work.”

The principal then called Hernandez to discuss the issue. When Hernandez asked her what her understanding was of why Kamdin was having problems with the mask, her reply is illuminating (emphasis added):

“My understanding…that he is feeling stressed about wearing it in class, that he’s ADHD, and that he just doesn’t want to wear it in class.

Hernandez interrupted with, “That he can’t think, if you get all of it.”

The principal simply replies with, “Okay.” She didn’t ask any questions or offer any possible solutions about what could be done to help this child who was obviously struggling with school and the mask, and whose struggles were leading to behavior issues. Even though Hernandez continued to press her about what they could do to help Kamdin, it’s clear that in her mind it was simply an issue of Kamdin not wanting to wear the mask.

Listen to the call here:

After the phone call, Hernandez went to the school to pick Kamdin up. He went inside the school and, understandably, was upset. Hernandez videotaped their interaction.

Yet, here’s what Perryman claims Hernandez said and did – things that are not seen in the video.

Hernandez denies ever punching his fist in Perryman’s face or screaming/spitting at her in earlier encounters. In another letter to Hernandez the district claims these calls to the police and to 911 were made on May 7, 2021. A Public Records Act request for listings of any 911 calls made from the vicinity of Garden Grove Elementary School on that date around dismissal time returned no results, and Hernandez says that he called the Simi Valley Police Department to ask if any calls had come in that day and that he was told none had. It’s unclear what the Investigator is basing his findings of fact on.

Also, Kamdin had been made to work outside, alone and unsupervised, that day.

When arriving at his classroom with Mrs. Perryman next to me, I noticed a desk was outside by itself. This has to do with the conversation I had prior to my arrival when I was told he was left outside to work alone and segregated from the other students. But, the desk was outside by itself and the entire class was just then all exiting because they knew sending him out alone unsupervised and segregated was wrong so, they then the teacher told all the kids had to go outside and learn because Kamdin won’t wear his mask, pinning [sic] the kids against my son, as my son (K.H.) stated.

Hernandez’s full rebuttal to the investigator’s report can be read here.

And while Kamdin was proud of himself for standing up for his rights that day, he was upset that classmates and his teachers didn’t support him.


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A post shared by Tim Hernandez (@tim_hernandez101)

And while the school demanded that Hernandez pick his son up, the principal then accused Kamdin of leaving school without proper authority because Hernandez didn’t physically sign a document while he was in the office – the office they told him he couldn’t be in without a mask, regardless of his medical exemption. But when Hernandez then complained that the school didn’t follow its own procedure by having him complete the sign-out form, the Investigator found that in light of all of the circumstances, the school could be excused for not ensuring the form was completed. If that’s confusing, you understood it correctly.

August 16, 2021

When Kamdin came back to school that Monday morning, the Hernandez’s were met by Perryman, Youssef, and the school resource officer. According to documents reviewed by RedState, they claim they there for the purpose of communicating to Hernandez what Kamdin’s alternatives were if he wouldn’t wear a mask (because in their mind he wouldn’t wear one as opposed to couldn’t). Hernandez’s recollection was different. He wrote:

This was a clear intimidation tactic to scare parents and show power against me. The easiest thing to do would have been to call and arrange a conversation not break your Covid protocols and be within arms reach of me and have three staff members surround me as kids are being dropped off. Many parents asked and were questioning, what that was for and what is happening. It was a clear form of intimidation and using the school resource officer as muscle.

I was given three options as described by Hani Youssef in the investigators report, “my son complies and wears the mask, he gets an exemption, or he will be put in independent study.” I replied with, “I’d have to opt him out and sign him into independent study you can’t force me and he said, yes we can.” This isn’t the first time Youssef has lied about law and rules as my previous complaints have explained and proved. He then tried to hand me the packet to sign him into “independent study” (IS) and I respectfully declined and walked away.

Approximately 20 minutes later the school resource officer, Officer Ellis arrived to my house stating he was going to give me a misdemeanor trespassing ticket for entering the school when I was called on the 13th, the Friday before to pick K.H. up.

Even though there was no directive prohibiting Hernandez from being on campus on August 13 – the “disruptive conduct” letter Youssef issued in May 2021 was not in effect for the 2021-22 school year per a July 6, 2021 email from Assistant Superintendent Sean Goldman to Hernandez – the Investigator somehow found that Hernandez wasn’t allowed to be on campus, and that he was aware of that “fact.”

As shown in the video Hernandez provided from August 13, neither the Office Manager or Mrs. Perryman told Hernandez that he wasn’t allowed to be on campus. They told him that he couldn’t be in the office without a mask, and he walked outside with Perryman despite her telling him to wait *inside* for her to retrieve Kamdin.

Kamdin continued to have problems wearing the mask at school, though he tried because he wanted to be there. Instead of attempting to help Kamdin, administrators and teachers ostracized him, doing things like refusing to allow him into the library to check out a book unless he’d pull the mask up over his nose – because, despite all evidence pointing in another direction, they still considered that the issue was one of stubborn refusal and not disability. Shameful.

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