AMERICAN FORK — Educators in the Alpine School District say they're moving this week's board meeting online because of anti-mask protest groups. They say protesters have harassed their workers, disrupted meetings and pose a safety risk.
Last week, video of anti-mask protesters disrupting a Granite School District meeting grabbed headlines. The Granite Board of Education ended the meeting early after the crowd heckled speakers and chanted "No more masks!" during the meeting.
Officials with the Alpine School District say something similar happened to their board in April, with protesters demanding that the mask mandate on students be lifted.
District spokesman David Stephenson says, "They became so disruptive that we had to shut that meeting down, at the time."
He says another meeting got heated just two weeks ago.
"At the end of the meeting, as staff members were leaving, some of the members of the protest group approached staff members in threatening ways," according to Stephenson. "As (district workers) were going to their cars, some of the protesters would run up to their cars and yell profanity and harassing remarks."
Some protesters reportedly stood behind the workers' cars, recording them while preventing them from leaving.
On Monday, the district issued a statement saying, "Board President, Dr. Mark Clement has determined that holding the board meeting on Tuesday, May 11, with an anchor location, presents a substantial risk to the safety of staff and those attending."
The district listed four factors that led to their decision. Its statement reads:
- The previous disruptions, harassment, and the threatening manner of certain members of the public toward staff during and after board meetings concerning the requirement for students to wear masks in schools.
- The fact that the Granite School District Board meeting adjourned this past Tuesday night due to disruption by protesters about mask mandates.
- The need to ensure the board meets for the May 11th meeting to hear feedback and discuss the agenda without substantial risk of disruption.
- Consultation and ongoing collaboration with local law enforcement about meeting forums and formats that could lead to significant disruption and threaten the safety of staff and patrons in light of previous issues and anticipated continued actions by members of the public.
Stephenson says they plan on following the state's instructions requiring students wear masks until the end of the school year. After that, everything changes.
"We are planning for our summer school to have no masks," he says.
The district will allow public comment during Tuesday's meeting, but only for half an hour and commenters will be limited to three minutes, each. If someone goes longer than three minutes, they could be kicked out of the virtual meeting.