HERCULANUM, Missouri (KMOV/Gray News) — A high school student in Missouri staged a protest outside his school district office on Monday over a face mask mandate.
Nearly 100 students and adults joined the protest with Tristan Watson, KMOV reported.
“We decided to come out here in solidarity with this young man, to show him how proud we are that he is exercising his rights,” said Sarah Harvey, parent of a college student.
His father, Michael Watson, said Tristan was called into the office on Wednesday for not wearing a mask. He said his son was called into the office again on Thursday for the same reason.
“I basically just walked out and said I wasn’t going to wear a mask,” Tristan said.
Superintendent Dr. Clint Freeman said the district switched to virtual learning for three days two weeks ago because so many employees were sick with COVID-19 or in quarantine.
“I don’t think anyone wants to wear a mask, but we also understand that to keep our school doors open is a mitigation effort that we need to do right now to help with that,” Freeman said. .
Freeman said when the student refused to wear a mask to school or accept virtual learning, all they had to do was send them home. Since Tristan didn’t have a car, Freeman said the school district arranged for a police officer to drive him home.
A photo posted on social media showing Watson getting out of a police car outside his house had sparked suggestions that police were called on him because he refused to wear a mask and was forced to do a “perp walk”.
Michael Watson confirmed that the school called him to ask him to pick up his son, but he refused. Freeman said it’s common for the school resource officer at the high school to drive a student home if they’ve been sent home by the principal.
“Unfortunately, our school resource officer was also absent. So our local law enforcement helped with that and made sure the child got home safely,” the superintendent said.
Michael Watson has complained that the district is inconsistently enforcing the mask mandate. Tristan said he hoped to find a compromise on the mask policy.
Freeman said the school board will reevaluate the mask mandate at its next board meeting on Feb. 15.
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