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Louisiana education board: No special meeting on mask rules

August 23, 2021 GMT
Someone objecting to Gov. John Bel Edwards' mask mandate for Louisiana schools scrawled an anti-mask message and left it at the door of the hearing room for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La. The board refused to hold a public hearing on the mask mandate because the room was crowded with people who refused to put on face coverings.  (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)
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Someone objecting to Gov. John Bel Edwards' mask mandate for Louisiana schools scrawled an anti-mask message and left it at the door of the hearing room for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La. The board refused to hold a public hearing on the mask mandate because the room was crowded with people who refused to put on face coverings. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)
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Someone objecting to Gov. John Bel Edwards' mask mandate for Louisiana schools scrawled an anti-mask message and left it at the door of the hearing room for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La. The board refused to hold a public hearing on the mask mandate because the room was crowded with people who refused to put on face coverings. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s top school board won’t hold a special meeting to discuss whether to challenge Gov. John Bel Edwards’ mask mandate for K-12 schools, after the last meeting on the topic was disrupted by unruly crowds who refused to follow the face covering requirement for public buildings.

The leaders of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education released a statement Sunday defending their decision to adjourn last week’s board meeting without debating the legality of the Democratic governor’s mask requirement. Hundreds of parents had packed the hearing room in opposition to face coverings.

“The governor’s current executive order is in effect until September 1st. There are no plans to call a special meeting,” said the statement from board President Sandy Holloway, a Republican from Thibodaux; Vice President Kira Orange Jones, a New Orleans Democrat; and Secretary Ashley Ellis, a Republican from Monroe.

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The education board voted 8-2 Wednesday to adjourn the hearing without the mask debate — because a majority of the hundreds of people in attendance loudly and angrily refused to comply with the mask requirement for public buildings. The board leaders’ statement noted that they set aside two adjacent rooms with social distancing and live streaming for people who refused to wear masks.

“As educators and education leaders, we have to be role models for children. Just as we wouldn’t allow this behavior in schools, neither will we tolerate refusal to follow the law, intimidation, bullying tactics and putting the health and safety of attendees at risk during our board meetings,” the statement said.

Several Republican lawmakers and the state Republican Party have called for a special education board meeting to revisit the issue, arguing parents have a right to be heard by the 11-member board, which has eight members elected by voters.

Edwards is expected to announce next week whether he’ll extend his statewide mask mandate, which covers all public indoor spaces, beyond Sept. 1.