1,400 call for ‘immediate resignation’ of 3 Richland school principals after mask vote

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Jennifer King

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A letter signed online by about 1,400 people declared “no confidence” in three members of the Richland School Board embroiled in controversy after a hasty vote last Tuesday to make masks optional.

The letter was written over the weekend by a group of about eight concerned community members and parents, said Elizabeth Lugo, one of the petitioners. The authors are calling for the “immediate resignations” of board members Audra Byrd, Kari Williams and Semi Bird.

“We hope that they will accept this and realize that they are no longer effective leaders. They have proven to be ineffective leaders and we want them to voluntarily step down for the good of the community because they are not acting in the best interest of the students,” said Lugo, a Richland parent.

In the letter, Byrd and Williams allegedly violated at least 16 state and federal guidelines, including those dealing with public gathering laws and Washington State School Directors Association standards. Bird is also accused of violating the First Amendment by deleting public comments on his personal Facebook page.

The letter was presented at Tuesday night’s virtual board meeting.

“It’s really about the process and the process,” Danica Garcia, a former Richland School Board candidate and parent, told the Herald ahead of the meeting.

The letter comes after Byrd, Williams and Bird voted 3-2 to allow the district to go “mask optional” at a special session last week in defiance of Washington state’s COVID masking rules.

While some parents were thrilled with their decision, others were upset by the suddenness of the action and the lack of transparency in the decision-making process that followed a closed two-hour session. The mask issue was not specifically included as a topic for discussion on this agenda.

Principal Shelley Redinger then closed schools for two days to respond to legal concerns about the decision. In another emergency meeting Thursday, the school board changed its vote to make the mask optional starting March 21, when the statewide ban is expected to be lifted.

For now, Richland students, staff and visitors are still required to wear masks in schools.

This story was originally published Feb 22, 2022 5:47 p.m.

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