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Wood County Board of Education meeting cut short over group’s refusal to wear masks, apparent escalation

Published: May. 11, 2021 at 11:35 PM EDT|Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 12:35 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - A Wood County Board of Education meeting was adjourned early Tuesday night after school officials said a group of people came to the meeting and refused to wear masks.

Complicating the matter, a group of around 40 students were scheduled to be honored for their work in the i-Ready program during the meeting.

“We have to protect our students. And to have 30 to 35 people without masks in a room that’s very small, consciously we cannot bring students in here and put them in harm’s way,” said Hosaflook.

Board President Justin Raber said he decided to adjourn the meeting early after one particular individual became especially unruly.

“I requested that he sit down. Upon him not wanting to, out of safety concerns of the room, our students, and the board members, and that he was obstructing a lawful government meeting, I adjourned the meeting,” said Raber.

Raber said that man was Sean Keefe, who we were able to talk to outside of the board offices.

He was among at least four people WTAP spoke with who came to speak against having masks in schools.

Keefe said he took things further than anyone else who came to speak, but others there were being more polite.

“This was certainly not a rowdy group,” said Glenn Newman, who also came to speak against masks. " It was a friendly group. And yet, these were people, who, all we asked for was a moment to speak and to listen.”

While board officials said they welcome public comment, they have no control over the state’s mask mandate. They do, however, have to follow it.

“If we do not wear a mask, there’s always the potential to withhold state funds, which in our case, is about $53 million,” said Hosaflook.

Raber said he was unfamiliar with most of the people who came to speak at Tuesday night’s meeting.

According to school officials, some of them came from outside of the county, including some who were Ohio residents.

Governor Jim Justice has said he will lift the mask mandate on June 20th, West Virginia Day.

The students who were supposed to be recognized were taken across the street to Jefferson Elementary where board members honored them outside of a formal meeting.

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