Mask dispute halts Sequim School Board meeting

SEQUIM — A Sequim School Board meeting lasted just a few minutes before a dispute between audience members and the school board president about mask requirements encouraged school officials to postpone the remainder of the meeting.

Board members reportedly had brief discussions with some audience members about mask requirements following an hour-long executive session and just prior to the start of the regular portion of Tuesday’s meeting, held at the district’s boardroom at 503 N. Sequim Ave.

The dispute started at the outset of the public comment section about 15 minutes into the meeting.

One of the audience members, later identified as Anthony Banker, was asked to put on a mask. He said he had a medical exemption from wearing a mask and attempted to provide the board with information from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding the effectiveness of various forms of masks.

“You cannot kick me out because of a medical reason,” he told school board members. “It’s discrimination.”

Banker and several others asked board president Brandino Gibson for more explanations about the board’s meeting mask requirement.

“We wanted to hear what people say,” Gibson said in an interview following the meeting. “I told them, ‘We want to hear what you have to say, but this is not safe.’ At that point, it was just shut it down.”

He said Tuesday night meetings could go virtual only “because of the safety factor,” but that no decision was immediately made.

Board members Brian Kuh and Eric Pickens stayed behind to talk with the group of about 25 people concerned about the mask policy. Some had brought signs, one reading “Tyranny spreading faster than the virus.”

In an interview after the meeting, Banker said he felt frustrated with the outcome.

“Their discrimination shut it down,” he said.

“These board members obviously don’t understand the law. The people who took those oaths, if they can’t (uphold them), we’ll remove them, put people we want in,” Banker said. “Because the people have the power.”

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Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at editor@sequimgazette.com.

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