School District of Milton reverses course making face masks mandatory for students and staff

Parents shouted down school board members after the vote passed 4-3
Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 9:54 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2021 at 5:27 PM CDT
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MILTON, Wis. (WMTV) - A contentious school board meeting in Milton ended with members voting 4-3 in favor of making face masks mandatory for students and staff for the upcoming school year. The move is a reversal of the board’s previous “masks optional” policy.

The emotional meeting was extremely tense as some parents shouted at the board to voice their displeasure with the decision.

“My child! My choice!” some people chanted in the crowd after the vote was taken. “Repercussions are coming!” another person shouted. “Frickin’ hypocrites!”

“I am really disappointed. Those are threats personally towards me,” said board member Shelly Crull-Hanke. “You said you would be respectful, you’re not being respectful,”

“You don’t respect our kids!” someone shouted back. “This is our choice, not yours!”

Board members David Holterman, Mike Hoffman, Rick Mullen, and Crull-Hanke all voted in favor of the mandatory mask policy. Joe Martin, Leslie Hubert, and Jennifer Johns all voted no. Superintendent Rich Dahman proposed the mask mandate but did not vote.

“It should be a choice,” said one public speaker named Evan. “I don’t have an issue with anyone wearing a mask. If they want to, that is completely within their own right, and I will respect them for it. I will keep my distance and I will do whatever. I just don’t want to wear a mask myself,”

“My children cannot be vaccinated because of the age requirements…the only chance they have of being properly protected against this horrible virus is a mask. Not only will they be wearing them to protect themselves but to not spread anything to others,” said another parent in a letter that was read aloud by board member Mike Hoffman.

One parent said that if the mask mandate passed, he would remove his children from the district.

“Masking ain’t gonna happen. My children will go to school under mask choice, or we will pull them out of this district,” said David Rasmussen. “But I shouldn’t have to pull them. My children are protected by law to the least restrictive environment for their education and that to me, and to them, is mask free,”

But other parents voiced concerns about students who may be immunocompromised.

“We know masks work. They decrease transmission by blocking the droplets that carry the virus. They are simple and effective, and our kids rocked them last year and they can do so again. We all need to watch out for the most vulnerable among us,” said another parent in a letter written to the board.

One student, who identified herself as a junior at Milton High School, got emotional as she told the board that the pandemic has greatly affected her mental health. She also said face masks are not for her.

“Since COVID, my anxiety and depression has increased. My depression got worse because I was home all the time, I was lonely in a dark room with a computer constantly on a laptop doing homework 24/7 trying to raise my grades,” she said. “The mask is very uncomfortable, it’s itchy, it makes me itch my face and wearing glasses with it is very irritating,”

Superintendent Dahman also read a letter from Dr. Dan Beardmore, a pediatrician from SSM Health in Janesville. He recommended the board approve the mask mandate.

“There are already many examples of schools that have returned across the country without masks and the entire school has had to shut down because so many students and staff were home. We will be next in Wisconsin if we go back mask-less,” said Dr. Beardmore in the letter.

Milton schools return to class on Wednesday, September 1st.

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