Victoria and Drew Nelson: California siblings banned from school for going maskless
A school resource officer was called to Springs Charter School in Temecula after the brother-sister duo refused to wear masks for 'religious reasons'
TEMECULA, CALIFORNIA: A California brother-sister duo has been permanently removed from a charter school after they refused to cover their faces with masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. It has been said because of the siblings — Victoria and Drew Nelson — a lockdown was also placed at Springs Charter School and eventually, the school resource officer was called.
The incident reportedly happened last week. It was Victoria and Drew Nelson’s first day at the school, which also turned into their last day there. Victoria — a junior — and her brother Drew Nelson, a senior, claimed that they declined to wear face masks because of religious reasons. The pair apparently believed that their decision would be considered under religious exemption, but there was no record of a formal request filed with the district or the school. “We thought the school would care what we believe in but they just didn’t even care enough to listen,” the girl said.
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After the sibling’s refusal to don face masks, the brother was sent to the principal’s office but when his sister declined to listen to the school’s administration, her teacher asked other students to evacuate the classroom.
The teacher, however, did not let Victoria go outside. “When I would go left, she would follow me. I was trying to go around her and she would block me so eventually I just gave up,” she explained. Victoria also recorded the conversation she had with the principal. When the principal asked her, “I need you to stand up or we will have to physically remove you from the classroom,” she responded with: “Please don't touch me.”
As the situation escalated, the school resource officer (SRO) was also called to campus. Often, the SRO is called if there is some kind of threat to the students or the staff of the school. However, the school’s officials did not go into detail about the threat, citing a need to “protect student and staff’s right to privacy.” Though the siblings have been removed from the school permanently, they will continue to have access to the whole curriculum, resources and teachers from their home. Their parents will reportedly have a meeting with the school district over the matter soon.
Following the incident, Springs Charter Schools released a statement that read, “As a public charter school, Springs Charter Schools is requiring to comply with all CDPH orders, including the mask mandate, in order to protect the health and safety of our staff and students, which is our highest priority. To this end, students and staff are required to wear a mask while in school facilities. There are no religious exemptions in the state mask order nor has the right to an exemption even been recognized by the Supreme Court because it's a neutral law of general application to protect public health. We are still investigating the specifics of the incident.”
A legal expert Jessica Levinson also supported the school’s decision. Levinson said: “Regardless of whether or not you’re deeply religious or an atheist, Muslim or a Christian, it applies to you. People tend to hear over and over, ‘Oh, there's two reasons you can be exempt from mandates: medical reasons and religious reasons.' There's so much complexity and nuance.”