The enforcement of statewide mandates on facial coverings at outdoor events spurred a series of protests in front of La Center schools, with district administration saying they are just following the rules.
On a number of days in late September and the first day of October, protestors of La Center School District’s masking mandate showed up at the corner of East Fourth Street and Northeast Highland Avenue. They were spurred in part due to the ejection of a district parent who refused to follow the order from Gov. Jay Inslee that requires masks at any outdoor gathering of 500 people or more.
Though he declined to speak about particular individuals, La Center School District Superintendent Peter Rozenkranz said the district was trying to keep attendance below 500 people, based on a list generated of athletes’ families, and coordinated with the opposing team. He said the method was similar to what the district used in the spring when stricter restrictions were in place.
“I’m watching this play out, not only for our school, but I’m wondering how other, larger schools are handling this,” Rosenkranz said. “I just want kids to be able to have activities and be able to participate in sports, and I want their families to be able watch it. For a community like ours, big events like that are really important.”
Rosenkranz said for upcoming games, the district will keep track of numbers, and announce when the number exceeds 500 people and therefore require people to put on masks.
“There’s no political statement in whether I’m for or against masking. I’m just following mandates as best I can,” Rosenkranz said.
He acknowledged that if it came to a head, he would involve the police.
“If I’m working with someone who is in total disregard of any conversation, I politely ask people to leave, and if they refuse, then I do involve law enforcement,” Rosenkranz said. “It’s not ideal, not the best scenario. Definitely not something I want to do.”
The superintendent noted frustration over statewide mandates are not new. Regarding the protests that followed the football game, he said that although the demonstrators had every right to protest on a public sidewalk, when he heard reports of them putting their hands on kids, he decided to take action.
“What was reported to us was they would reach and try to grab and pull a mask off of a kid,” Rosenkranz said.
He also recalled reports of demonstrators shouting at buses, with some of those in the bus responding.
Rosenkranz sent out a letter to district administration and parents who notified the district to let them know what was happening. He said the latest demonstrations on Oct. 1 were largely civil, noting a counter protest appeared on an adjacent street corner.
As of Oct. 7, Rosenkranz said there have been no more demonstrations.
“It’s a fine line, trying to honor people’s right for free speech and following directives to keep kids safe,” Rosenkranz said. “I can’t do anything to change the mask mandate. That (push) belongs in Olympia.”