Last Updated on September 4, 2021
National File has obtained an email from English teacher Lizanne Minerva at Northwest High School in Wichita, Kansas, part of USD-259, the state’s largest school district. The email appears to quote an email from principal Eric Hofer-Holdeman, who declares that students caught violating the district’s newly-implemented mask mandate four times will be effectively expelled from the school.
In the email, Minerva writes, “I am passing along the expectations for the mask mandate, cut-and-pasting information from Principal Hofer-Holdeman’s weekly message to teachers.” In his message, Hofer-Holdeman explains that “1st noncompliance” with the mask mandate will result in a “Verbal warning” and “If the student complies with an Administrator request to wear their mask properly, they will be allowed to return to class only if you as the teacher allow it. Administration will assume you do not want the student back in your class during that period unless you specifically write in your communication email that you will allow the student back in that period.”
The consequences for a lapse in face coverings grow quickly, according to Hofer-Holdeman. “2nd noncompliance: Verbal warning with call to parents,” write Holdeman. Additionally, students will not be allowed to return to their class, regardless of the teacher’s option. “If the student refuses to wear their mask properly for the Administrator, then that student will be removed from school until the mask mandate is lifted,” Hofer-Holderman adds, in italics.
A third “noncompliance” will result in an “In-person meeting with admin, student, and student’s parent(s) or guardian(s)” and if the student refuses to wear the mask “properly” in front of the administrator, again, the student will be removed from school.
If the student dares let their mask slip a fourth time, then Hofer-Holderman declares, “Student may no longer attend in-person until the mask mandate is lifted. Further, their absences will be considered unexcused, learning remotely with NWHS teachers will not be an option. Only those students who are required to quarantine will be allowed to log into Teams and join a class remotely.”
National File contacted Susan Arensman, the News and Media Relations Manager for USD-259, for comment on this policy and did not receive immediate clarification on whether this was a policy meant for the entirety of USD-259, or simply Northwest High School.
Additionally, the About page for USD-259 reveals that the district’s stated mission is, “Inspiring future leaders and empowering each student with the 21st century skills and knowledge necessary for success.” National File asked Arensman and USD-259 if removing students from school over a refusal to “properly” wear a face mask advances this mission and did not receive an immediate response.
High schools across the United States have faced historically high drop out rates since the beginning of COVID-19 restrictions, including lockdowns and virtual learning. National File asked Arensman and USD-259 if they believe it is responsible to remove students from school and deny them the opportunity to gain an education over face masks considering this fact, and did not receive an immediate response.
National File also asked Arensman and USD-259 whether this policy of removing students from school over face masks, ostensibly created under the guise of keeping students and faculty safe and healthy, is counterproductive, as students who are not allowed to attend classes will likely be left unsupervised.
On its website, USD-259 says that it “is the largest school district in Kansas, educating approximately 11 percent of all public school students in the state of Kansas, and more than half of school-aged children in Sedgwick County.” The district also claims to employ “nearly 10,000 dedicated professionals.”
The USD-259 Board of Education recently decided to pass a new mask mandate that entered effect this week. According to their website, “BOE Vice President Blankley brought up” the mandate, and “the Board of Education voted 6-0 (with Mia Turner absent) to implement a mask mandate for all individuals (including all WPS employees and students) ages 3 and up, while indoors.”
Perhaps of note, USD-259 adopted this mask mandate almost immediately after Sedgwick County, where USD-259 is located, voted against an indoor mask mandate that would have also required students – as well as all residents of the county – wear masks indoors. This county-level mask mandate failed 3-2.