State Representative Joseph Chaplik’s (R-Scottsdale) bill to leave a child’s masking up to parents passed in the House last Thursday in a party-line vote, 31-28. HB2616 requires that public and charter school districts — as well as the state, its political subdivisions, and any other governmental entity — may not require minors to wear masks or face coverings without the express consent of their parent or legal guardian.
During the House floor’s vote on the bill, Democrats expressed opposition to HB2616 by claiming their Republican colleagues were on the side of increasing the scope and size of government, suggesting that Democrats stood for limited government by comparison. Senate Democrats offered similar arguments during the floor vote on a bill to limit abortions after 15 weeks. State Representative Marcelino Quiñonez (D-Phoenix) made such an argument as he voted against HB2616. Quiñonez didn’t elaborate how a bill affording individuals the choice for their children to wear medical gear increased the scope and size of government authority.
“There seems to be a hesitancy to accept the science and go with the science. Instead of doing that, we continue to create barriers to ensure that people feel othered by wearing a mask, instead of following the science,” said Quiñonez. “The legislation to create another barrier, another bureaucracy, is overdue. And so with that, I encourage my colleagues to follow the science and vote ‘no.’”
In a press release following the bill’s passage, Chaplik explained that parents were given back their right to make medical decisions for their children. He expressed confidence that the senate will pass the bill.
“This is a bill to return the right to make medical decisions for their children to the parents, which I expect to become the law in Arizona,” said Chaplik. “This is a win for parents, students, and schools who have been forced by their district leadership to mandate masks.”
As AZ Free News reported earlier this month, Democrats in the House Government and Elections Committee issued the same arguments against the bill. State Representative Sarah Ligouri (D-Phoenix) insisted that the bill contradicted “the science” and pandered to a “political narrative,” arguing that districts with mask mandates already have opt-out options for parents. However, Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) would be one district that doesn’t mention an opt-out to its mask mandate.
State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) responded that mask mandates weren’t based on scientific knowledge, pointing out the CDC’s frequently-changing guidelines and goalposts over the last two years. Hoffman implied that Liguori and other Democrats opposed to the bill were cherry-picking data from their preferred sources to support the notion that “the science” supported mask mandates.
“In reality, the science is on the side that kids should not be forced to wear masks,” said Hoffman. “This is not a political argument, it’s an actual medical science argument. There’s countless medical studies to support this, and there are countless health professionals at the highest levels — especially medical doctors, not just public health professionals because there’s a very big difference between an actual medical doctor and a public health professional — they support this.”
Last year, Chaplik sponsored the “Freedom Bill” signed by Governor Doug Ducey: another bill expanding personal freedoms when it comes to masking. The Freedom Bill allowed businesses to not enforce a state, city, town, county, or any other government jurisdiction’s mask mandate on their premises.
This week, Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) employees threatened to call the police on one high school senior for not wearing a mask, ultimately forcing him to leave campus without notifying his parents. The student, Cezar, described his ordeal to conservative talk radio host Jeff Oravitz: he stood outside on a football field with other maskless students, not wanting to be marked absent and desiring an education as he waited for administration to grant them access to the school building.
“My mindset was: I was going to do this protest and still get my education and just go to school, have a normal school day without a mask, and see how it goes,” said Cezar. “But obviously I’m going to stay being respectful and whatnot because that’s the type of person I am and I feel that’s how we need to approach this situation: just peaceful.”
Cezar said that there were approximately 100 students from his high school who protested with him outside against FUSD’s mask mandate, with another estimated 400 students at other schools protesting as well. When he decided he’d attempt to attend class maskless, Cezar took a video of his encounter with administration.
The video shows Cezar engaging with various administrators. Eventually he was escorted by a masked administrator, who wore gauges and his dreadlocks in a man bun. Cezar explained that he’d like to still get his education while doing his peaceful protest. The administrator commented that FUSD should try to find someone who can explain to Cezar and his peers what they’re protesting. When the administrator informs Cezar the other students in class will be masked, Cezar says, “No, thank you,” to which the administrator responds, “Yes.”
The pair eventually come upon another male administrator, who informs Cezar that he can either wear a mask to attend class, stand outside on the football field, or have his parents pick him up. Cezar informed the administrator that they could call his parents and that he would go to class.
Cezar then comes upon the female administrator who repeated what the two prior male administrators said: Cezar would either have to wear a mask or have his parents pick him up. The female administrator refused to call Cezar’s parents.
At that point, Cezar requested that the administrator sign a document confirming that he had been kicked off campus by school staff due to his peaceful protest against wearing a mask. The administrator refused. She suggested Cezar talk to the school board and superintendent about his refusal to wear a mask.
“I don’t feel like they listen because no ever comes from it,” said Cezar. “And when it does, it’s very minimal.”
Another female administrator suggested that they call the police because she “didn’t feel comfortable” with Cezar around, and that she was going to retreat to a “safer space.” The administrator then explained to Cezar that his rights ended where their rights began.
Cezar also had another document from his parents asserting his right to peacefully protest masking, replicated below:
“To whom it concerns,
Students have a constitutional right to participate in non-disruptive protests during the school day. This means that school officials cannot retaliate against or discipline student protestors unless the protests cause, or are reasonably expected to cause, the disruption of school events or make it impossible for school officials to maintain order.
As the child’s parent this letter is not only my expressed permission but an assertion of my child’s right to peacefully protest in the following manner:
Not wearing a mask –
1) Demonstrating concern regarding the potential health and safety issues, such as decreased oxygen levels and inhalation of harmful bacteria, that arise through mandated mask-wearing forced upon the individual; and
2) Exercising freedom of choice, conscience, or taking actions aligned with an individual’s creed.
School policy allows for expressive speech at all times, in-so-far as the speech does not interfere with the normal operations of the school. Because my child’s expressive speech will not impact school operations, I expect there will be no issues for my child.
My child is not to be sent to the office. I do not give my child permission to leave campus, nor will I pick my child up. My child shall not be harassed, bullied, or treated differently by any teacher, administrator, faculty, or student for standing up for his/her right to peacefully protest the mask mandates. If any teacher or administrator takes issue with my child’s right to protest, please contact me to meet with them and the principal for further discussion.”
Cezar expressed gratitude that he’s been able to have in-person learning again, but lamented at the difficulties, inconsistencies, and behavior changes from others he’s endured. He described how no educator was willing to help him or even offer a kind word when he was unable to breathe through a mask due to severe allergies.
“The constant masking and being told to put your mask up – teachers are not nice about this, they are kind of aggressive when it comes to making sure our masks are up,” explained Cezar. “I had an incident with a teacher where it’s the end of the school day, I’m walking out and I take off my mask because I’ve been wearing it all day and he like gets right up on me in my personal space and he’s telling me to put my mask back on and he’s demanding it and raising his voice and whatnot. It’s purely not right to talk to us this way.”
The governing board president of Flagstaff charter school Northern Preparatory Academy (NPA), Cristy Schaefer Zeller, resigned Thursday evening after calling parents and students opposed to mask mandates “the worst of humanity who can’t STFU [shut the f*** up].” It isn’t immediately apparent what prompted Zeller’s social media post, but that same day several students refused to wear masks as required by NPA’s mask mandate, which had just gone into effect.
In her resignation letter, Zeller said that those who were upset by her remarks and called for her resignation were bullies. Despite Zeller’s track record online of speaking freely about her beliefs, she claimed that she had no way of defending herself or standing up for her beliefs.
It doesn’t appear that NPA leadership wanted Zeller to resign. In an email obtained by AZ Free News, NPA Superintendent David Lykins told parents on Wednesday that Zeller’s comments were her own and not authorized or endorsed by any aspect of NPA. Lykins wrote:
Dear NPA Community,
I wanted to acknowledge that one of our NPA Governing Board Members had made statements on their Facebook account as a private citizen that do not reflect the core values of Northland Preparatory Academy. These comments are the views of an individual and they were not authorized or endorsed by the NPA Governing Board as a public body, NPA as a school, or NPA’s faculty and staff.
I have met with this Board member this afternoon and she has issued a public statement regarding this issue (see attached). Additionally, I would also like to share that all pertinent information surrounding these statements will be shared with the remainder of the Northland Preparatory Academy Governing Board for future discussions and planning at the Board level.
I received communication from an NPA parent today that shared the following, “leadership is an awesome responsibility, and as leaders we are human and make mistakes.” I agree with this statement, but also feel it is important to acknowledge our mistakes, learn from them and take actions to prevent them from happening again.
Zeller’s statement read:
I am proud to serve on the NPA Governing Board as its President. It has come to my attention that statements I made on my personal social media accounts have been circulating among the Flagstaff community. As a private citizen I work as an activist, however my personal opinions and politics are mine alone, and do not reflect those of Northland Preparatory Academy or its Governing Board. I continue to remain committed to NPA’s mission and the health and safety of our community, and making NPA a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for all. (emphasis added)
In her post condemning those opposed to masks, Zeller cited that her fellow liberals, as well as a number of educators and health care workers she’d spoken with, were angry and frustrated. She claimed that Flagstaff’s socioeconomic systems are falling apart.
“[…] Us liberals tend to want to be fixers and empathetic and all the rainbows and unicorns. No more. As MTV taught us… it’s time to stop being polite and start being real. Get busy,” wrote Zeller. “I am not being dramatic. I have spoken with dozens of people in education and healthcare that are about to break, if they are not already broken. They are angry, sad, and defeated. They love their professions, but despise their jobs right now. The anger and frustration is electric. It did not have to be this way. We are so angry that we now have to spend our time dealing with the worst of humanity who can’t STFU about their freedom to choose about a piece of fabric on their face.” [emphasis added]
Last Friday, AZ Free News reported on Zeller’s Facebook post and her other social media posts ridiculing mask critics, Trump supporters, and Republicans as “idiot a**holes” and intellectually inferior. At the time of publication, Zeller’s Facebook and Twitter pages containing these remarks were public.
Zeller’s resignation letter is reproduced below:
To the Members of the Northland Preparatory Academy Governing Board and Administration:
I have come to the very difficult decision that it is time for me to resign my position as President and Member of the Northland Preparatory Governing Board effective immediately. I am immensely proud of the work we have done together over the last five years. Our accomplishments together include:
Hiring of a new Superintendent
-A Board Statement on Gun Violence
-A Board Acknowledgment of Racism at NPA and a plan to address it, which included the establishment of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee
-Navigating the last 17 months of the COVID-19 pandemic
-The courageous decision to mandate masks on the NPA campus this fall.
I care deeply for the students and faculty of NPa, and a large part of me feels that I am abandoning them at a time when strong leadership is more important than ever. It is antithetical to who I am that I would allow someone else to bully or pressure me into such a decision, however I find the current situation to be untenable.
The personal toll that the last 17 months has taken on me and my family has finally become too much. The attacks I have endured are unacceptable and unwarranted. This did not start yesterday. It began over a year ago. My husband, myself and my children have experienced negative backlash in small and large ways because of my strong stances on public health and anti-racism.
Over the last 48 hours I have received DOZENS of harassing emails, phone calls and text messages. I must prioritize my mental health over this continued abuse, especially when I cannot defend myself or stand up for what I believe in.
I have been targeted by a few individuals and I fear that they will continue to escalate this according to a playbook being followed around the United States. I want to remove myself from the situation, as the longer this goes on, the more you are all distracted from the incredibly important tasks ahead, and the more ineffective I become in my role.
I will work in whatever capacity you all would like to help transition the committees I chair and my notes from the last Board meeting. You will just need to let me know how and if you would like me to assist with the transition.
I admire you all deeply and I hope you know that this decision weighs very heavily on my heart and will for some time. I will be supporting you as a member of the public and fellow parent.
I will continue to advocate for children in the most important ways. I hope that NPA will continue to make every decision student-centered, just as I am doing now.
As of press time for this report, Zeller’s social media pages and all posts relevant to this and other related reports have been either removed or made private.
The board president of Northland Preparatory Academy (NPA), a Flagstaff charter school, called parents and students who disagree with mask mandates “the worst of humanity who can’t STFU [shut the f*** up]” about their freedom. Governing Board President Cristy Schaefer Zeller leveled these criticisms in a Facebook post late Friday night. Zeller’s complaints followed the first day of NPA’s reinstated mask mandate, during which three students reportedly refused to wear masks.
“We are so angry that we now have to spend our time dealing with the worst of humanity who can’t STFU about their freedom to choose about a piece of fabric on their face,” wrote Zeller.
Zeller called Arizona, Florida, and Texas “banana republics.” She claimed all of Flagstaff’s systems were “falling apart.” Zeller also suggested they treat those expressing opposing beliefs as “a**hole[s]” and “bullies.”
“Don’t be crazy and cause a police situation but show support. We know what to do with bullies. Do it,” wrote Zeller.
In response to a tweet from Stop the Steal founder Ali Alexander saying that he would give his life to fight for the truth about the election, retweeted by the Arizona Republican Party, Zeller called Trump supporters “idiot a**holes.”
“Apparently these idiot a**holes are ready to die for @realDonaldTrump,” wrote Zeller.
In reference to the October 7 debate between then-Vice President Mike Pence and current Vice President Kamala Harris, Zeller insinuated that Pence had the mental acuity of a toddler.
“Maybe @vp touched his butt hole and then touched his eyes and got pink eye. Like a toddler,” wrote Zeller.
As of press time, Zeller’s post criticizing those opposed to masks was public. The entirety of Zeller’s post is reproduced below:
“What’s on my mind Facebook? A whole crap ton of anxiety. That’s what is on my mind.
I am deeply worried about our educators and health care workers. I have seen and heard things this week that are frankly shocking. Things that are unacceptable in the wealthiest country in the world.
Maybe it’s better in states that aren’t devolved banana republics like Arizona (I see you TX and FL). Here, in Flagstaff, AZ, our systems are falling apart in very frightening ways. I am not being dramatic. I have spoken with dozens of people in education and healthcare that are about to break, if they are not already broken. They are angry, sad, and defeated. They love their professions, but despise their jobs right now.
The anger and frustration is electric. It did not have to be this way. We are so angry dealing with the worst of humanity who can’t STFU about their freedom to choose about a piece of fabric on their face.
So what do we do? We know we can’t change minds of a portion of the population. I can’t waste my time on them anymore. My like-minded people, here is what we can do:
*If you see someone being an a**hole (picketing your child’s school, accosting a school administrator, demanding unreasonable things from a health care provider)… step in. Be brave. Be a helper. Don’t be crazy and cause a police situation but show support. We know what to do with bullies. Do it.
*Write a thank you note, send an email to the educators and healthcare workers in your life. The small things make all the difference.
*Become an activist. Write your lawmakers, submit public comment and demand better.
*Be kind and patient. If things are imperfect or inconvenient at the school or the hospital, know that the front line person you are talking to is not to blame. They showed up for work. It’s a systemic problem resulting from lack of staffing, general a**holery from the highest levels, messed up politics, lack of funding, and things beyond their control.
Finally.. Us liberals tend to want to be fixers and empathetic and all the rainbows and unicorns. No more. As MTV taught us… it’s time to stop being polite and start being real. Get busy.”
A group of enthusiastic parents, kids, and politicos rallied in front of the Arizona State Capitol on Monday to send a message to Governor Doug Ducey: #Letthechildrenbreathe. The rally, organized by Arizona Stands United, was part of a campaign to eliminate mandatory masks in K-12 schools.
Approximately 100 maskless and smiling attendees listened as young person after young person explained the difficulties of wearing masks in the classrooms.
The rally preceded the delivery of over 10,000 signatures in support of their cause to the Governor’s Office.
Organizers hope the governor will rescind Executive Order 2020.51 which requires masks to be worn by students in traditional and charter public schools.
Jenny Jackson, president of Arizona Stands United, says the group was first made aware of the difficulties kids were experiencing by a member of the group’s Education Committee. The group agreed to take on the cause as part of its commitment to end the current state-of-emergency and what they call “COVID tyranny.”
The “COVID tyranny” has even caused small children to wear masks while participating in P.E. outdoors.
Chloe, a fourth grader, said “Wearing masks makes it hard to breath. I have friends who have asthma and I get scared when they run and start having trouble breathing. I’d feel better if we didn’t have to wear them.”
Parents report children coming home exhausted due to what they believe is a lack of oxygen due to mask wearing.
Jackson says it is unfair that adults have a choice to wear a mask now or not, but kids are given no choice in the matter. It makes it especially egregious, say supporters because there is ample evidence to show that COVID is little threat to otherwise healthy children, they are no longer considered super spreaders, and at this point, most classroom teachers have been vaccinated against the disease.