Last week, a Bay Area principal called the cops on a 4-year-old student who tried to attend Theuerkauf Elementary School without a mask on, in violation of Mountain View Whisman School District's policy.
"I'm going to have to have him removed from campus if you don't leave at this time," the principal, Michelle Williams, can be seen telling the student's father, Shawn, who has asked media organizations to withhold his last name for privacy. The school then called an officer to intervene. In another clip, the school resource officer seems sympathetic to both parties but must do the school district's bidding. Though there is no statewide mandate in place, and many area school districts have different policies, this district had decided that all students must mask in order to attend for the fall.
Shawn had anticipated that his family's decision not to mask would be a problem and contacted school officials in advance of the fall term starting.
"I was looking for accessibility options," Shawn told Fox & Friends First. "The only thing I got back from the principal was a cut-and-paste response." Other school district officials told him that schooling is compulsory in the state starting at age 6; since Shawn's son is 4, he doesn't need to attend.
"This parent worked with an advocacy group outside Mountain View to create a professional video in order to nationally shame a public servant doing her job while maintaining a safe and orderly school," Superintendent Ayindé Rudolph said in a statement sent to parents, not acknowledging that masking 4-year-olds may do more harm than good.
After this incident went viral last week, the school district on Thursday revoked their policy, admitting no wrongdoing and instead cloaking their call in language about how local COVID transmission rates have for now declined enough to put an end to the mandate. Shawn's son was allowed to attend school.
Major Update: After this incident went viral, the school found a reason to quickly lift their mask mandate.
However, the district states they "may reinstate mandatory indoor masking" if their county moves back into the CDC's high tier. pic.twitter.com/FgXGBQOz5e
— Reopen California Schools (@ReopenCASchools) August 19, 2022
This mandate reversal has echoes of a similar situation that just transpired in Los Angeles County. In mid-July, L.A. County's Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Department of Public Health, announced that universal indoor masking might need to be mandated if COVID transmission rates rise to a "high" level, determined by the authorities as 10 new weekly hospital admissions per 10,000 residents. L.A. County entered this "high" transmission level on July 14, but the Beverley Hills City Council immediately voted not to enforce any mandates if imposed from on high, and Ferrer quickly cooled her jets.
The unpopular mandate had been slated to go into effect on July 29. "It's reasonable to assume that the recent decline we have seen in cases will lead to continued decreases in hospital admissions over the next couple of weeks," Ferrer said July 28, suddenly optimistic, having recently dropped plans for the mandate. (L.A. County technically remained at a "high" transmission level until August 11.)
In both Mountain View and Los Angeles, the mask enforcers won't simply admit that there's little public will to follow these mandates, that they look weak and ineffective if people refuse to obey.
When dropping plans to institute mandates, Ferrer, Rudolph, and other decision makers rarely admit that they were wrong to impose coercive mandates on a largely vaccinated and low-risk general public. They instead claim it's the case counts that have gone down. Since the situation has changed, they say, the mandate is no longer necessary, leaving themselves a little bit of room to reimpose masking at a later date if they deem it appropriate.
Given what we know about how COVID works more than 30 months into this pandemic, armed with vaccines, Paxlovid, and an understanding that this virus does not do much harm to our very youngest, many parents might say kid-masking is never appropriate, contra California's insistent health enforcement apparatus.