VANCOUVER, WA – A Washington high school has disallowed a student to attend school so far this year due to mask mandates, from which the student has a valid exemption.
Melanie Gabriel is a 13-year-old freshman at Skyview High School in Vancouver. School for them started on August 31 and, like most other schools in the state, they required students to mask up for attendance.
That is, of course, unless they have a medical exemption for said masks, like Melanie did.
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Melanie and her mother, Megan, established a 504 accommodation plan (a code from the Americans with Disabilities Act) to ensure Melanie’s exemption was obtained legally and correctly. The ADA website reads: “Section 504 states that ‘no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under’ any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency…” The section defines “executive agency” to include public schools.
When Melanie attempted to go to her class on the first day of school, she was ordered to put her mask on. Melanie explained her exemption, and the school responded poorly by continuing to demand she wear a mask, singling her out in front of her peers and triggering her anxiety. They denied her entry into the school and had her mom pick her up.
On the second day of school, Melanie was taken to a small office, where she was “questioned,” as she described it, for over an hour. During this time she was belittled about her medical status and ordered to wear her mask. When she attempted to leave, the principal, Andy Meyer, blocked the door and refused to let her.
Meyer left the room and locked her inside, alone, for another hour.
Megan again had to pick her up from school early after Melanie was disallowed to participate in her classes.
On the third day of school, Melanie was locked outside the building for about an hour, at which point a student finally let her in. She attempted to go to her class, but Principal Meyer, a counselor, and another faculty member formed a human chain, blocking her into a corner and preventing her from moving.
“They would not let me go,” Melanie told me. “They said, ‘Put the mask on or you can’t go anywhere!'”
Melanie was held against her will, prevented from moving freely in the hallway. In the State of Washington, that’s called Unlawful Imprisonment, and it’s a felony.
Melanie stayed blocked in the hallway by the barricade of the mask enforcers until Meyer said her mom was outside. She walked out of the school, at which point the staff followed her to shut and lock the door, keeping her, a 13-year-old child, out of the school with no supervision (arguably falling under the RCW of Criminal Mistreatment in the Fourth Degree), since her mom was definitely not outside and had been trespassed from school property for unknown reasons (more on that below).
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On the fourth day of school, a crowd of friends and family showed up to the school to protest their mistreatment of Melanie and to advocate for the school to allow her inside. Melanie and Megan stayed on the sidewalk all day, and the school did not let her inside.
There were other kids at the school with exemptions without masks on, as was observed by many people at the school. So why was Melanie singled out? Why was she harassed, assaulted, held against her will, and then left outside, alone, during the school day, after the school had knowingly sent her mother away?
The question, of course is rhetorical: Melanie was singled out was because of her activism. She’s staunchly against students being forced to wear masks, and she’s spoken about that several times publicly. This is her punishment for having beliefs that go against some of the teachers’ and school staff.
Megan was trespassed from the school after the first day where she stayed on the campus to make sure Melanie was ok. Principle Meyer came out several times during the day to update her on what was happening with Melanie and never indicated there was a problem with Megan being on campus. The following day, he walked out and handed her a trespass notice that stated she was permanently no longer allowed to be on campus. The reasoning, the notice said, was “for disruptive and uncivil conduct on September 1.”
What, exactly, this conduct was, however, Meyer couldn’t tell Megan when she asked.
Vancouver Public Schools proceeded to send a letter out to parents saying they had to call “additional security” because of the situation. They also lied to parents in that letter, saying “local school districts do not have the authority to make exceptions to this state mandate.” According to RCW 28A.150.230, “Each common school district board of directors be held accountable for the proper operation of their district to the local community and its electorate.”
Even if the district’s statement were true, the mandate does not apply to someone with an exemption.
This situation is not about the mask mandates overall, this is about one specific student having a very real disability, although it’s not one you can see on the outside.
The school’s treatment of Melanie Gabriel is a blatant violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, say nothing of the criminal acts committed against her.
Melanie is being denied the benefits of her local public school, to which her mom funds with tax monies, because of her medical inability to wear a mask.
Megan has asked that people band together to write letters to the principle, the school board, the superintendent of the district, and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, demanding investigation into the incidents and allowing her daughter to return to school while honoring her exemption.
This piece was written by Leah Anaya on September 3, 2021. It originally appeared in RedVoiceMedia.com and is used by permission.
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