Grace Smith: Wyoming school student, 16, arrested for refusing to wear mask in school
Laramie High School in Wyoming was locked down for about 90 minutes on Thursday morning, October 7, for a bizarre reason. It ended with a 16-year-old junior getting arrested and removed from the school in handcuffs.
According to a September 9 Albany County School District No 1 notification, the Board of Trustees voted to approve a revised Covid-19 Mitigation Plan, which included universal masking in K-12 facilities, through October 15. “The purpose of the mask requirement is to help ensure students remain in school,” the update said. “The District will be able to provide students with masks if they forget one, or if their mask gets dirty during the day.”
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Grace Smith, the aforementioned junior, reportedly returned to Laramie High School on Thursday morning after serving two consecutive two-day suspensions for not complying with said mask mandate. According to Smith, the mandate violated her constitutional rights. She said she won’t wear a mask. She was reportedly warned by the school administration and faced two days of disciplinary suspension and a misdemeanor trespassing citation for every time she was in the building and declined to mask up.
She said that the first time she was suspended, “I just left. Then, after talking with our attorney, we decided to push it, so on Tuesday I didn’t (leave) and took the citation for $500 and then left.” After serving a two-day suspension, she returned Thursday and again was ticketed for trespassing. When she refused to leave the school, saying she has a right to be there, she was arrested. And the school was put on lockdown.
In a short statement, the school district said the “brief lockdown” was done in response to a “student disciplinary disturbance” at the main office of the school. Sean O’Sullivan, a spokesman for the school district, said principals across the district were in one location for a weekly meeting at the time and that nobody was hurt. “Everyone is safe,” he said. “That’s the big key right now.” The statement added, “The lockdown was issued in order to prevent further interruptions to academic learning.”
A pair of Laramie PD officers reportedly made Smith put her hands in front of her, placed her in handcuffs, and transported her to the police station in downtown Laramie, where Smith was released. The episode was captured on video by Smith on her phone. Smith said she was surprised the incident evolved to include a schoolwide lockdown and her arrest.
“They told me they were going to do that,” she said. “I was surprised they followed through. They came up to me probably 20 minutes before I was arrested and said that if you continue to not leave, we will arrest you.”
Andy Smith, her father, said, “They told us how this was going to play out before it happened. They all said they were not going to arrest kids. But she was taken into custody, handcuffed, and brought down to the detention center.”
Grace Smith said after the incident that she is concerned other students and teachers could retaliate. But she added that she was prepared for that. “It’s pretty likely some will hold (the lockdown) against me, too, but I would never purposely try to hurt anybody,” she said.
About why she chose to take this stand, Smith said, “It’s because I’m growing up in a country where I’m supposed to have my God-given rights to protect, and they’re being taken away. Everybody has the freedom to wear a mask if they choose, but I believe everybody also has the right to not wear a mask if they choose… It was my choice. I started refusing masks, and I told them about that.”
Andy Smith said that they have retained an attorney to fight the citations and, if necessary, the school district’s mandate.