When students in Oakdale, a city in California’s Central Valley that identifies itself as the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” stood up to California’s onerous student mask mandates this week by showing up to school mask-free – just as their Governor did to the NFC Championship Game in Los Angeles – the school district retaliated in a completely unconscionable and abusive manner: by barricading students into an unheated high school gym and only relenting after law enforcement was called.
The barricade incident was reported by Reopen California Schools Thursday evening.
Getting reports that after hundreds protested against school mask mandates yesterday, today, @OakdaleJUSD barricaded any student not properly wearing a mask in the gym and refused to turn on the heat. Police were called for a wellness check and police turned on the heat. https://t.co/FMxFTvmxHe
— Reopen California Schools (@ReopenCASchools) February 4, 2022
Thursday was the third day of protests in the district, which consists of 5,200 students. On the first day, Tuesday, Jennifer Poth’s 8-year-old son went to school maskless. The school called her about it, according to Sacramento’s KCRA:
“They called me to ask me to pick him up, and I refused. I said, ‘No. It is your job to educate my son, and he has every right to be there,'” Poth said.
She was upset when she learned what happened next — to her son and another maskless student.
“They forced him to go outside in 43-degree weather and sit there and try to do schoolwork,” she explained.
If Poth had left her son with another young child in near-freezing temperatures, without an adult, she would have been arrested for child endangerment. But Superintendent Dave Kline was simply allowed to say, “My bad.” Kline told the news station:
“That was a mistake. That was a miscalculation on my part, and I took responsibility for that. I apologize to both parents that that took place. That is not how we want to treat our students. We still want to be respectful.”
By Wednesday, more students joined the protest – several hundred, according to Kline. This time, they were more “humane,” in his estimation.
“I respect their right to protest. However, we’re under a state mandate and the state mandate carries the force of law,” Kline said.
This time, schools found somewhere indoors for maskless students, like a cafeteria or a gym, where they could independently do their schoolwork. Kline said it is a collection of students in different grades and classes, so they are not with their teacher although they are supervised.
“They are missing out on their instruction with their teacher, and we have excellent teachers here. They’re doing a great job considering the circumstances, and we want our students in the classroom,” Kline said.
The state mandate does not carry the force of law. No one will be arrested and charged for it. According to the California Department of Public Health, a mask is “required” but enforcement is up to each district. The district could simply allow unmasked students to sit in a separate area of their existing classroom, even though that approach isn’t supported by The Science™.
Still, the students peacefully protested, supporting their right to control what happens to their own bodies.
Oakdale CA students throughout the district are refusing to wear masks. High schoolers have been sent to the gym and filled it with more unmasked students on their way.
These kids are following the governor’s example and we are here to legally support their rights. pic.twitter.com/6cDZOkWvpv
— LET THEM BREATHE (@letthem_breathe) February 2, 2022
As my colleague Jennifer O’Connell reported early Thursday, Oakdale students were also being threatened with not being able to graduate or play sports.
Approx count of unmasked students per site in Oakdale Unified
Oakdale high school 200
Oakdale junior high 150
Sierra View Elementary 20
Cloverland Elementary 20
Fair Oaks Elementary 30
Magnolia Elementary 20
They’re threatened with not graduating + not being able to play sports pic.twitter.com/sLXxKFdPqz
— LET THEM BREATHE (@letthem_breathe) February 3, 2022
It seems that Superintendent Kline didn’t learn his lesson, because students who showed up maskless on Thursday they were reportedly barricaded in the gym and administrators refused to turn on the heat until the police were called. The police were the ones who turned on the heat.
What if a student attempted to heat the room by setting a fire? Clearly that’s not the smartest idea, but we’re talking about kids here, and kids who have some experience in the outdoors (the district lies at the base of the Sierra Nevada range). It’s not out of the realm of possibility that one of them would think, “I know how to set a fire and keep it contained.” Then you have students barricaded somewhere with an open fire. It’s reckless, potentially deadly, and against fire codes and other laws.
What will happen to the administrators? Will they face any type of consequences?
And, why would they do this? Superintendent Kline gives one potential reason in his Wednesday interview with KCRA:
The superintendent said the school district would risk losing funding if he violated the state mandate and that he cannot jeopardize the well-being of the district.
Guess what, Superintendent Kline? A mass exodus of students from your district will also jeopardize its well-being. Hundreds of federal civil rights lawsuits can also jeopardize its well-being. Perhaps simply keeping your students’ well-being first – by joining forces with the students and their families to fight against unscientific and ineffective mandates – is the way to go here?
The incident highlights both a growing pushback against inane, ineffective attempts to slow the COVID panicdemic, and also why we who are conservatives and live in California remain in place. While the big cities and their insane policies grab the headlines, once away from the concrete and steel Babylons you find the overwhelming majority of Californians are good, hard-working, God-fearing people with the same love of country and family as heartland-dwelling Americans. This is our home, and we will keep fighting for it. God bless the Oakdale cowboys for doing the same.
(RELATED: School Forces 9-Year-Old to Sit Outside Alone for Hours, Deems Him a ‘Clear and Present Danger’ for Refusing to Wear Mask)
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