The claim: Parents in Vail, Arizona, took over the school board and removed the mask mandate
A group of parents protesting mask mandates recently swarmed a Vail Unified School District meeting in Arizona, sparking online claims of a school board takeover by the group.
The protest followed Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's April 19 announcement rescinding the statewide order that directed K-12 schools to require masks. This gave districts the option to implement their own face-covering policies, which the Vail school board was planning to discuss before the meeting was canceled due to safety concerns.
While the district has disputed claims that the parents replaced the school board, some users on social media claim the parents' meeting had a legal effect.
"WOW. Parents in Vail, Arizona just took over the school board - all according to the rules. Voted in a whole new board, and immediately removed the mask mandate. Democracy in action! Just Amazing!" reads a screen grab of an April 27 tweet.
On April 28, one Facebook user shared the tweet and wrote, "In case you're wondering what happens when you mess with people's kids too long."
In a message to USA TODAY, the Facebook user pointed to an April 28 video of the protest by the page Hugs Over Masks Minnesota. The other users did not return a request for comment.
Claims that parents had elected a new school board started after videos went viral of parents holding a rally against the mask mandate inside of the lobby at the Vail Education Center, where a school board meeting was set to take place on April 27.
In one of the videos, the crowd begins cheering after a "board member" says, "I motion that the entire Vail School District will be free of mask policies and it will be optional to all teachers and students."
The crowd was estimated to be around 100 people. The official board meeting was canceled when parents pushed their way into the facility while refusing to wear masks, according to KGUN-TV. A few protesters were armed and deputies could not get the growing crowd to disperse.
With the elected school board members absent, the parents held an impromptu, unofficial election, in which they selected their own board and voted to rescind mask policies. The crowd claimed Robert's Rules of Orders allowed them to overthrow the school board.
Mask mandate remains in place
The school district's mask mandate and school board remain in place and officials say the election held by the parents was not valid.
"It's a publicity stunt," Vail Superintendent John Carruth said, according to KGUN-TV. "A new board needs to be voted through a due elected process of the voters of this community. That did not happen last night."
Additionally, local attorney Steve Portell told the outlet that Robert's Rules of Order "don't have the legal impact of supplanting Arizona law and removing elected officials from office."
Further, Robert's Rules require an elected presiding officer or chair to facilitate the election, which was not the case.
Darcy Mentone, director of communications and public affairs for the Vail Unified School District also told Lead Stories that the protesters' impromptu election was not official; the crowd interrupted a study session that preceded the meeting.
Mentone added that the elected Vail school board members did not resign, as many have claimed, they adjourned due to safety concerns. She said even if the meeting had taken place, the board still would not have had the ability to change the mask policy because members were only planning to discuss mitigation strategies, not vote on them.
The Vail United School District plans to reschedule its meeting and there is no word on whether the mask mandate, which is set to expire in June, will be brought up as an item, according to KOLD News 13.
Our rating: False
The claim that parents in Vail elected a new school board and removed the school district's mask mandate is FALSE, based on our research. Parents held their own purported election after actual board members left the building due to safety concerns and disruptions from the protesters. Attorneys and the Vail superintendent say that election was not legally effective.
Our fact-check sources:
Lead Stories, April 30, Fact Check: Parents In Vail School District Did NOT Take Over Board, Remove Mask Mandate
Informed Choice Michigan, April 28, Facebook video
David J. Harris Jr., April 29, Instagram video
KGUN-TV, April 27, Parents rally for Vail School District to drop mask mandate at schools
KOLD News 13, April 29, Vail Superintendent responds to protest, urges parents to focus on what unites them
Associated Press, April 28, School board ends meeting as parents protest mask mandate
Vail School District, April 27, Board Meeting
Tucson.com, April 30, Political Notebook: Crowd claims 'Robert's Rules' let them pick new Vail school board
Robert's Rules of Order, accessed May 2, website
KGUN-TV, April 29, Lawyer: Group's attempt to replace Vail board was not legitimate
National Parent Teacher Association, accessed May 2, Robert's Rules of Order-the Basics
Tucson.com, April 29, Anti-mask protesters storm Tucson school board meeting
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Vail, Arizona, parents did not remove school mask mandate