OAKDALE, Calif. — After Oakdale Joint Unified School District (OJUSD) saw maskless protests among students at their schools, the district is saying students who show up maskless to class on Monday won't be allowed inside the room.
The move follows protests that happened at a few schools throughout town. Oakdale Police Department said those gatherings were small in nature and peaceful. A video circulating on social media Feb. 2 showed Oakdale high school students in a gym not wearing masks.
The district's letter to parents on Sunday raised a number of concerns, saying that some protests that week were not as civil and peaceful as they were led to believe.
The letter from OJUSD Superintendent Dave Kline said the protests resulted in a marked increase of disrespectful behavior and aggressive and violent threats toward students, staff and board members. Kline's letter also detailed a conflict between a parent and staff members and even conflicts between students.
"On Friday, a father directly threatened both male and female staff members with such fury that we are working with Oakdale Police regarding this matter," Kline's letter said. "Students are being regularly bullied for wearing masks by both fellow students and others. People have made it clear over social media, email, and in person that their verbal threats will become physical if they don’t get their way."
A postponement of the school district board meeting is also under consideration due to threats of violence, according to Kline's letter.
"This is not acceptable. Bullying from students or adults will not be tolerated," the district said.
The district is asking that students attend class wearing their masks on Monday. Anyone who doesn't won't be allowed inside the classroom and will get referred to the school's office.
Kline's letter said the junior high and high schools will have no alternative settings or school work provided for students who continue to protest, however, the elementary levels will still have those settings for now as a temporary measure.
The district provided an option for students who want to continue protesting the mask mandate.
"Students who wish to protest the mask mandate are asked to enroll in our District’s Independent Study program, and we also suggest that further protests are directed to Sacramento," the district said.
The district says they are legally bound to uphold the mandate and provide a safe environment for students and staff. Kline said the district can be fined if the mandate isn't followed.
"We have never been more restrictive than the California Department of Public Health has required, and we have looked for every opportunity to allow as much leeway as possible for our students when it comes to masking and testing. We have done what we can, but violation of a mandatory public health guidance puts the health and safety of students, staff, and their families needlessly at risk, and also carries significant legal, financial, and other risks," the district said.
To read the full letter, click HERE.
(Editor's Note: An email newsletter edition of this story said parents could be fined if their student doesn't wear a mask. However, the district says it, not families could face fines from the state if students aren't wearing masks.)