“I was sad”: 5th-grade student sent home on the first day of school for not wearing a mask

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 11:40 PM EDT
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HIGH SPRINGS, Fla. (WCJB) -On the first day of school, the debate over Alachua County’s face mask policy pinned a 5th-grade student in the middle and eventually led to her being sent home.

“Are you refusing for my child to come here and have her education because she won’t wear a mask,” asked Ryan Green as he went to pick up his daughter.

“I’m not. The district is,” replied the Principal of High Springs Community School.

Green explained he is just following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order, which he believes allows for the parent’s right to choose.

“We talked to both of our kids about it, and we felt like it was the right choice for them,” said Green.

He said the first day of school started like most with excitement, and everything was going well.

“We get our kids there, we sign them in, everything went great. Then, a few hours later we get a phone call from the assistant principal saying that Opal has been sent to the front office because she is not wearing a mask,” explained Green.

His daughter Opal was upset she did not get to spend the first day in school.

“I was sad because it was my first day of school, and I got to see my new teacher,” explained the 5th grader.

For Green’s son Legend who is in 1st grade, it was a completely different experience as he spent his entire first day of school on campus at the High Springs Community School. His teacher asked him to put on a mask, and he did so but without his parent’s consent.

“He was not sent to the office. His teacher asked him to put one on after we had left for his safety, but also so she wouldn’t get in trouble with her principal or the superintendent,” explained Green.

RELATED STORY: Department of Education demands response from ACPS school board members on requiring face masks

This father said while he understands the principal, teachers, and staff have their hands tied, he doesn’t want his choice as a parent to be taken away.

Chair of the Alachua County School Board, Dr. Leanetta McNealy, said there are options for families who don’t want their children to wear a mask.

“That is opting out with the exception, going to their physician getting them to opt-out,” explained Dr. McNealy. “Taking advantage of the HOPE scholarship voucher where they can go to a private school or to a close district that is not requiring masks.”

She wants families who elect to stay in the district to know school board leaders don’t plan on moving away from a mask mandate because of the Delta variant.

“We would love for you to stay with us, but please know that little thin mask is not going to bother your child,” said Dr. McNealy.

Green believes if Gov. DeSantis required masks statewide, it would be a different situation.

“If he would have said yes, we are going to wear a mask, we would not be here right now because I would have been following what he had said. For example, we are doing exactly what he said we could do,” explained Green. “Alachua County School Board Superintendent is trying to strip that right away from us.”

He said he will continue taking his children to school without masks because he believes it is his right.

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