By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — In what is becoming a theme this spring at public schools across the state, the Poynette School Board warned residents who refused to wear masks at Tuesday’s meeting that they would be forcibly removed by a local police officer.
Poynette school officials went a step further, however, prohibiting public comments at future school board meetings, sources tell Empower Wisconsin. And school board members are now to forward any email or communications they receive from the public to Poynette District Administrator Matthew Shappell or the district’s attorney.
This is the same southern Wisconsin school system that has drawn national attention after a special education teacher berated a high school student for not wearing a mask during lunch in a classroom. The teacher, Robyn Rylander, has been placed on administrative leave after screaming at the male student and calling him names, according to the district. (Watch the video here.)
District officials, according to some residents, don’t want to hear any opposition to the district’s mandatory mask policy — a battle being waged in school districts throughout the state, from Tomahawk and Cumberland to Waukesha and points south.
“Police were there 20 minutes before the meeting started,” said David Pinherio, parent of a Poynette High School junior who spoke at the school board meeting.
School Board President Jeff Noble, before the meeting began, warned those in attendance that if they did not wear their masks they would be asked to leave. If they failed to leave, they would be removed from the meeting, Pinherio, and others said.
One parent said things grew tense while the district attorney informed the audience that the school board has the power to keep order. After some back and forth, district officials relented and allowed unmasked audience members to remain at the meeting.
But it doesn’t appear likely the board will budge on the strict mask mandate, even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosens up mask recommendations as COVID vaccination rates climb and coronavirus infection rates fall.
Neither Noble nor Shappell returned requests for comment.
Meanwhile, the video of Rylander, first reported by conservative talk show host Vicki McKenna and Empower Wisconsin, has gone viral. The story was picked up by Fox News.
“I don’t care if you’re vaccinated, you little dink. I don’t want to get sick and die. There’s other people you can infect, just because you’re vaccinated,” the teacher screams in one of two video clips.
“You know what, you’re not a special person around here,” the teacher adds in the clip. “You should hear about how everybody talks about you. You’re a jerk.”
Rylander tells the student he needs to “have respect for other people in your life.”
When the student says he does, the teacher responds: “You’re not a big man on campus. Quit walking around here like you have a stick up your butt.”
In a district Facebook post last week, Shappell wrote the district is “aware of the incident.”
“The District is initiating an investigation and the teacher involved has been put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. The District contacted the parents and we are taking steps to provide the appropriate support for the student involved,” the district administrator wrote.
Perhaps the district should start with mandatory bullying prevention training for teachers and administrators.