SHINGLE SPRINGS, Calif. (KTXL) — Students, parents and teachers demonstrated at Ponderosa High School Monday to demand an end to the mask mandate.
Organizers called the demonstration “No Mandate Monday.”
“It’s about choice. You should be able to choose whether you want to wear a mask,” said senior Alexis Wagner. “You shouldn’t be forced to. If you want to wear one, that’s fine, but don’t force me to do it.”
Wagner said she stood up for what she believed in, refusing to wear a mask in class two weeks ago. At that point, she said the school separated her from masked students, ultimately placing her in another room.
“I didn’t like how I was being treated. I was like, ‘If you’re going to run your school that way, then I’m going to leave,’” Wagner told FOX40.
And that’s exactly what she did but not before her message garnered momentum.
Last week, about 50 students attended class maskless in protest.
Also appearing without a mask, in solidarity with the students, was Ponderosa High School technology teacher Mike Wilkes, who the El Dorado Union High School District later placed on administrative leave.
“We all are complicit in continuing to agree and go on with these indefinite mask mandates and vaccine mandates,” Wilkes said. “And the common excuse that we just have to do what the state wants doesn’t hold up anymore. We need to unite with people who are like-minded and say no.”
The California Department of Public Health says masks are a key defense against spreading and contracting the highly-contagious coronavirus — a primary reason why they say they implemented the K-12 statewide mandate.
Wilkes’ brother and Ponderosa High School math teacher John Wilkes said he looks forward to the mandate being lifted.
“There’s a lot on this campus that are afraid to say anything right now. If there’s one thing you could put on the news for me, it would be that there are so many people out there who are afraid because they don’t want to lose their job,” John Wilkes said.
Organizers said they’ll continue to hold these rallies each Monday until state leaders do away with the mandate.
“They should listen to us. If you want to wear a mask, you can, but don’t force us to do it,” Wagner said. “We don’t want to and we’re not happy this way.”
The state will enact the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine mandate for schoolchildren, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced at the beginning of October. The mandate aims to have all students in seventh through 12th grades vaccinated by next fall once the shots gain final federal approval for everyone 12 and over.
The El Dorado Union High School District released the following statement to FOX40 Monday morning:
We can confirm that Michael Wilkes is an employee of the El Dorado Union High School District; however, the District is not legally permitted to discuss personnel matters.
Ponderosa High School and the El Dorado Union High School District are working to provide a high quality education to all students while adhering to California Department of Public Health guidelines that mandate face coverings for students while indoors. Per those guidelines, students who are unable to wear a face covering and do not have a face covering waiver from a medical doctor are offered a temporary independent study location on campus until a long-term independent study option can be put in place. We look forward to the time when the Governor’s face covering mandate is lifted. Students and parents are encouraged to voice their opinions to their state and local elected officials.Serena Fuson, Executive Assistant to Superintendent Ron Carruth