▶️ Tensions erupt at BLS school board meeting; mask recommendation approved


A dramatic scene took place at Tuesday night’s Bend-La Pine School Board meeting, as the panel walked off the stage after comments from an audience member were deemed personal attacks.

Parent Brandon Merritt was interrupted after making comments on the conduct of some of the board members.

“This meeting is adjourned,” said Board Chair Melissa Barnes Dholakia, before the members filed out of the room.

Though the meeting was called back to order later on, the tense moment was one of many.

“Our public schools have been given over to Luciferian teachers,” said another audience member, who also said the board was on the path to hell.

“I’m sorry, but you need to stop,” said Barnes Dholakia.

The room erupted in cheers of support for the commenter.

Others came forward to ask questions about the purpose of the meeting, which was for the board to vote on approving the recommendation put forth by Superintendent Dr. Steven Cook, mandating masks in the fall.

“I don’t fully understand the statistics behind this or the numbers, and I would like to see hard data, not percentages,” said another concerned citizen.

The board heard from Director of Communication and Safety Julianne Repman about the details of the recommendation.

“We believe that with the development of, and adherence to, these prevention strategies, our schools can safely remain open for in-person instruction,” Repman said.

Earlier in the day, Gov. Kate Brown announced she planned to issue a statewide mask mandate for indoor public spaces.

Additionally, the Oregon Department of Education last week announced it would require all K-12 students and staff to mask up indoors.

Superintendent Dr. Steve Cook presented a recommendation for the district that included masking up indoors during school hours for everyone 2 and older.

It was also made clear that vaccines would not be required for any students.

Aside from a request for more information on lunchtime coordination and the use of cohorts, the recommendations passed. 

Superintendent Cook agreed to present reports on their concerns at the board workshop on August 24.


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