Vancouver Public School officials confirmed on Friday that Skyview High School, Alki Middle School and Chinook Elementary School had been closed after far-right Proud Boys members attempted to gain access to the grounds of school, according to witnesses.
Pat Nuzzo, district communications director, called the lockdown a “safety precaution”.
“This ties into yesterday’s protest against Washington state’s requirement for staff and students to wear masks or face coverings in schools and on buses,” Nuzzo wrote to OPB.
Patriot Prayer, a far-right group led by Joey Gibson from southwest Washington, and other far-right activists posted online messages falsely claiming that a school student who did not want to wearing a mask would be stopped if he entered the school grounds.
Parents of other Skyview students joined in the anti-mask protest, holding signs and calling for the student to receive a medical exemption for the mask requirements. Nearby, teachers and students held signs supporting the masks.
A video posted online showed a group of people outside the school chanting “USA”. Several people in the crowd wore black and yellow clothes from the Proud Boys, a far-right group known for participating in the January 6 uprising and for inciting violence during protests against anti-fascists.
VPS School Board Chairman Kyle Sproul said locking down schools was the right move to keep students safe.
“Regardless of the stance on mask mandates, I think most parents in our community agree that protesting on our school campuses and disrupting the school day is not in the best interests of students,” said Sproul at OPB.
The school was closed after members of the Proud Boys attempted to escort the first-year student seeking medical exemption into the building.
This student was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, according to her mother, Megan Gabriel. She requested a waiver of the school’s mask warrant because she said the mask can trigger panic attacks.
Gabriel told OPB that she was ready for her daughter to come to school early, change classes before or after the other students, and stay as separated from other students as possible to accommodate her condition. her daughter. Gabriel said the school would not exempt his daughter from the warrant.
Gabriel’s daughter has only been to school for one day since school resumed this week, she said.
“Yesterday they locked her out of the building and I had no idea,” Gabriel said. “She was locked out of the building for an hour. “
The demonstration itself sometimes turned vitriolic. School security guards said some of the women protesting called the students derogatory names.
But Gabriel said she was neither anti-mask nor anti-vaccine. Her son wears a mask at school, she said, and she wears her mask inside.
There is an anti-mask right-wing protest going on in North Vancouver at Skyview High School, which started out small and has now attracted outspoken white supremacists encroaching on school property.
Video taken by a friend on stage, not mine. pic.twitter.com/rxXL4TrvgI
– Triss Winters (@TrissWinters) September 3, 2021
Nuzzo said she couldn’t discuss specific students due to privacy laws, but said Vancouver public schools are required to follow state health and safety measures, including mask warrants.
“Some students are entitled to accommodation with a medical or disability mask,” Nuzzo said. “To provide accommodations, we work through a process with the student’s family to review all necessary information, including documentation from the health care provider.”
She did not say why the exemption requested by Gabriel was denied. Nuzzo said housing is available for mental health needs and Vancouver offers a fully distance learning option.
A student told the OPB that teachers and school teachers guard the doors inside the building during the lockdown, while security guards addressed the Proud Boys.
“All learning is disrupted. We have to sit quietly, not make noise, and we have been squatting in our classrooms for about an hour to an hour and a half, ”said Lucas, a 16-year-old high school student at Skyview. OPB withholds Lucas’ last name to protect his identity.
He compared the lockdown to shooting practice at school. Lucas also said some students were harassed by anti-mask protesters outside the school building.
“They’ve gotten pretty wild here recently. It’s kinda crazy, ”Lucas said.
Lucas and other students distributed masks at the school as a counter-demonstration to far-right activists.