About 20 parents and supporters of ditching face masks gathered Thursday morning near Escalante Middle School south of downtown Durango to protest Durango School District 9-R’s mask policy.
Protesters carried signs that read: “Mask mandates are child abuse,” “My kid, my choice,” and “9R violates the constitution.”
Durango woman Cam Formby said the protest was about ending mask policies and the school district’s decision to cancel a survey asking parents, students and stakeholders about their thoughts on rescinding mask requirements. The school district canceled the survey this week after receiving “compelling evidence” that the survey link had been shared with the greater community, thereby skewing the results.
Protester Jason Mietchen said he wanted to stand up and speak out for his kids. He has two children in the school district.
“I’ve been speaking against masking kids without consent since day one,” Mietchen said. “No one asked for my permission.”
Mietchen said he supports choice, and parents are welcome to mask their kids if that’s what they want. He said if people want to lose their rights, all they have to do is ignore them.
He said he is disappointed the school district canceled its survey.
Alicia Drover, another concerned parent who attended the protest, said she supports choice when it comes to masking and other medical mandates.
“I’m OK with people wearing masks if they feel it makes them safe, but no more mandates on our children,” Drover said. “We’ve supported our district leaders, our teachers, all staff, even our children while they mandated masks.”
But it’s been two years, Drover said, and it is time to lift mandatory masks.
Drover questioned why children in the school district are still required to mask up even though Gov. Jared Polis did away with state mask mandates.
“Boulder County lifts their mandates Friday,” Drover said. “Why is Durango still masked in school? We are highly vaccinated, we are doing our part, it’s time to have our freedom back.”
Drover said the school district “threw our voice in the trash” when it canceled the survey.
“When they say they’re coming in with skewed results, you guys (the school district) are the ones who put an email out to many parents that you wanted to hear from,” Drover said.
“I know many people who didn’t get the survey,” she said.
Drover said her kids filled out the mask survey at home on their own.
“If they wanted unskewed results they should have done an encrypted survey, spent the time and money on it so they didn’t feel they were getting skewed results,” she said.
Drover said she doesn’t support the school district launching a new survey.
“What’s done is done,” she said. “... We don’t get a redo. We got our chance, and we gave them our opinion.”
Superintendent Karen Cheser said in an interview Wednesday with The Durango Herald that the district received significantly more parent responses than it usually does from surveys. That was an indication the survey link had been shared with the greater community, she said.
Cheser said the district has about 9,000 parents or guardians, 4,500 students and 800 staff members.
Durango School District board President Kristin Smith said the board will discuss the survey and whether to relaunch the survey at a special meeting Thursday night.