A woman has been arrested after appearing to threaten to bring guns to school in Page County, Virginia while she argued against requiring students to wear masks during a school board meeting. She quickly apologised, saying that she was “only speaking figuratively”.
After her three-minute comment period came to an end, Amelia King, 42, told the members of the board: “Alright. No mask mandates. My children will not come to school on Monday with a mask on. That’s not happening and I will bring every single gun loaded and ready.”
“I’ll see y’all on Monday,” she added after repeatedly being told that her allotted time was up.
The Luray Police Department said in a statement that she was accused of making an oral threat on school property. She was released on a $5,000 bond after being arrested on Friday. She emailed a member of the board to apologise on Thursday.
“I in no way meant to imply ‘all guns loaded’ as in actual firearms, but rather all resources I can muster to make sure that my children get to attend school without masks,” she wrote, according to a board member who read the email aloud. “My sincere apologies for my poor choice in words.”
Luray Police Chief Bo Cook said Ms King also apologised to the police department. But the department said her words “absolutely caused public alarm”. Other local authorities are looking into the episode.
The school district superintendent and the chair of the board said in a joint statement on Friday that Ms King’s comments “go against everything we wish to model for our students” and “they go against the very nature of how we as a community should interact with each other”.
“This kind of behavior is not tolerated from our students, faculty, staff, nor will it be tolerated by parents or guests of our school division,” they added.
The members of the board voted 4-2 to lift the mask mandate on Thursday, The Winchester Star reported. The mandate was enacted by former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat. Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin, who entered office on 15 January, has issued an executive order going into effect on Monday making mask mandates in K-12 education optional.
Mr Youngkin signed the executive order on his first day as governor, saying that wearing a mask is a “matter of personal liberty – parents should make that decision for their children”.
Before her more explosive comments, Ms King told the board that “we need to think as a collective county, we don’t need to worry about what Richmond has to say. And there’s a lot of science, there’s a lot of good science, you know, the mask protects the person that’s wearing it”.
Mr Youngkin claimed in the executive order that mask mandates in schools have been “ineffective and impractical”. Parents should be able to “decide whether their child should wear masks for the duration of the school day,” he added.
“If you think for a second that we take any of this lightly as a board, you are 100 per cent wrong,” board member Jackie Sullivan-Smoot said during the meeting.
“It is so frustrating because we base our decisions [on] what we have,” she added. “Parents, you have a responsibility in this decision. In that, as we go forward whatever the outcome, the ball is in your court when it comes to your child coming to school if they’re sick.”
“The statement that was made absolutely caused public alarm, the parent that made the statement realized that, and immediately contacted law enforcement to apologize because the statement was not intended the way it was perceived,” Luray Police said.
“I’m absolutely mortified. I would never do such a thing ... Nonetheless, I’m beside myself,” Ms King told the board in her apology.
“I’m not a dangerous person and I’m not a threat, and I’m so very sorry for the way it came across,” she added.
Board member Rolf Gubler voted against lifting the mandate and said the governor’s executive order “couldn’t have come at a worse time”.
“I’m really worried about our students and our staff, and our community,” he said, according to The Winchester Star. “I’m really disappointed by this decision by the board.”
The seven-day average of new cases in Virginia was 1,377 on 29 November last year, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That figure had risen to 18,626 by Mr Younkin’s first day in office.