A mask uprising: Parents, students protest masks

Children playing during recess at school. According to a parent of a fourth-grader at Castaic Elementary, there are more than 20 students and many more across the Santa Clarita Valley who are defying mask mandates at school. Dan Watson/The Signal

UPDATED to remove incorrect information about a mask incident in which a school was misidentified.

By Sarah Sikandar  

Signal Staff Writer  

On Tuesday morning, around 9, Erin McGinnis received a call from Castaic Elementary School to pick up her kids, ages 9 and 11. She refused to bring them home.  

“They don’t want to be picked up, and we told them we don’t want to pick them up,” McGinnis said.  

Reason for the call: face masks. 

According to McGinnis, the students were given an option to sit at the lunch tables, irrespective of the chilly weather. “They weren’t allowed to learn with their classmates, indoors. The school gave us the option to homeschool if we don’t want them to wear a mask at school,” McGinnis added.  

It’s far from an isolated incident. Multiple parents around the Santa Clarita Valley have reported their children are being excused from classes for not wearing masks. Most reports came from Castaic Elementary, where parents — as many as two dozen, according to some parents — supported their children’s decision to stop wearing masks.  

Students in other local schools, ranging from elementary to high school, have shown solidarity over resistance to masking, which they describe as an overreach and an infringement of basic rights.  

Another parent of a fourth-grader at Castaic Elementary, who asked not to be identified, over fears of her child being singled out, said that around 20 to 32 students have participated in what looks like a unified resistance against masks. Because of a shortage of substitute teachers, she added, schools “can’t accommodate these maskless children at school.”   

“My daughter was kept outside in cold temperatures for two and a half days. Kids had purple lips coming out of school on Tuesday when it rained.”  

Administrators at Castaic Elementary and Live Oak declined to comment on individual incidents, citing privacy issues. 

Steve Doyle, superintendent of the Castaic Union School District, in a prepared statement sent out to the families, acknowledged “strong opinions in our community about these public health orders and their related requirements.” However, the statement adds, “Those of us charged with implementing public health protocols share your frustration over the apparent lack of consistency in the application of the rules.”  

Local school districts say they are bound by the state’s COVID-19 rules on masking at schools, which require masks be worn indoors on campuses. This week, the state and L.A. County lifted the requirements for masks to be worn outdoors on campuses. 

Kathryn Tamayo’s daughter, a first-grader at Castaic, “Chose to wear a smile to school.” Her brother, a special-needs student, was allowed inside the classroom while his sister remained outside.  

Tamayo was among the parents who asked the school to move their children from outdoor tables to indoors. “These kids are standing up for their rights to participate fully in the educational process free from discrimination and harassment. The state’s emergency powers do not allow children to be excluded from school for peacefully not wearing a mask.” 

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