UPDATE, Oct. 29: The DeLand Police Department released the body camera footage from the Oct. 27 School Board protest incident, as well as a statement.
“As seen in the body cam footage released today and other video that has circulated, Volusia County School staff and our officers attempted to peacefully resolve the situation by offering accommodations for the citizens to participate in the meeting without having to wear a mask,” the Police Department said in the statement.
“After roughly an hour, the two sides failed to come to an agreement and school board officials requested the citizens be trespassed from the property,” the statement continues. “Despite being trespassed and being asked by officers on multiple occasions to leave the property, some of the citizens refused and had to be removed from the building.”
To read the full statement and watch the body camera, click here.
A group of 10 anti-mask protesters delayed the start of a Volusia County School Board meeting by over an hour today, Oct. 27.
Before the meeting’s scheduled 1 p.m. start — according to Volusia County Schools spokeswoman Cindi Lane — a group of eight to 10 anti-mask protesters, some with children, entered the meeting location at the School District Administrative Complex at 200 N. Clara Ave. in DeLand.
The School Board chose not to begin the meeting until the maskless protesters left the building. After an hour of argument, which Lane said included the protesters being offered masks multiple times, the protesters were removed from the Administrative Complex by officers of the DeLand Police Department, and trespassed to prevent their return.
The School Board then began its meeting to discuss extending the school mask mandate, among other agenda items.
None of the protesters were arrested.
Outside of the complex, the trespassed protesters — including mothers with small children in tow — were met by other protesters. The group totaled about 20.
Rachael Cohen, one of the protesters, said she came to the meeting to speak against a planned decision to expand the mandatory mask mandate in Volusia County Schools beyond the current expiration date of Nov. 2.
Cohen said she disagrees with any mask mandate, especially for children. She told The Beacon mask mandates are a violation of the Nuremberg Code, which prohibits medical experimentation on any party that does not consent.
“Children are not property of the state,” Cohen told The Beacon. “They’re property of their families. The parents make decisions for the children.”
Cohen and several other protesters argued that their forcible removal from the School Board meeting was a breach of their rights. She was also streaming the confrontation on Facebook Live, where she urged other parents to “Fight for our nation and our rights.”
The City of DeLand has an ordinance that requires masks to be worn in indoor locations, but it doesn’t apply to buildings that belong to other governmental entities, such as the School Board. City spokesman Chris Graham said the police were called to enforce a trespassing request, not the city’s mask ordinance.
“We’re just enforcing the trespassing order,” Graham said.
Volusia County Schools spokeswoman Cindi Lane told The Beacon that because they would not comply with the mask order, the group was trespassed.
“We do have a mandatory face-covering policy, and we do require citizens who are attending our public meetings to abide by that face-covering policy,” Lane said. “How can our School Board have a meeting not following the policy that we require in our schools? It’s for all of our protection.”
Once the School Board meeting began, more than an hour later than scheduled, Board Member Ida Wright, who recently recovered from COVID-19, thanked everyone for their understanding.
“Thank you for being patient,” she said. “But we live in a country where everyone is able to speak his or her piece, and so we want to respect that.”