FACT CHECK: Did Parents In Vail, Arizona, Take Over A School Board And Remove A Mask Mandate?
An image shared on Facebook claims parents in Vail, Arizona, overturned a mask mandate in schools after taking over a school board.
Parents in Vail did not legally elect a new school board, nor did they overturn the school district’s mask mandate. The school board can only be removed through an official recall election, according to the Vail Unified School District communications and public affairs director.
Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in April rescinded mask mandates for the state’s K-12 schools, leaving it up to the school districts to decide whether to implement their own mask requirements, according to Insider. KOLD News 13 reported April 20 that many school districts in southern Arizona said they plan to keep the mask requirements through the end of the school year.
The image shows a screen grab of a Facebook post that alleges, “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.” The text of the screen grabbed post largely matches that of an April 27 tweet from U.S. Senate candidate Tim Swain of South Carolina.
Some parents in Vail gathered in late April to protest at a scheduled Vail Unified School District Board meeting meant to discuss face covering requirements, the Arizona Daily Star reported. The school board meeting was ultimately canceled, though some protesters stayed after the meeting was canceled and claimed to have elected a new school board that decided to overturn the mask mandate, according to Newsweek.
However, the protesters did not legally elect a new school board or remove the district’s school mask mandate. The Vail Unified School District website shows its board members have not changed between the school board meeting protest and press time.(RELATED: Viral Post Claims Face Masks Are ‘No Longer Mandatory’ In Ohio)
“It’s a publicity stunt,” John Carruth, the superintendent of the Vail Unified School District, said of the group’s attempt, per local outlet KGUN 9. “A new board needs to be voted through a due elected process of the voters of this community. That did not happen last night.”
The Arizona School Boards Association states on its website that school board elections occur as part of general elections in even-numbered years. County school superintendents may call for a special election to “fill unanticipated vacancies occurring between regular elections” or “choose to appoint an individual to fill such a vacancy,” according to the Arizona School Boards Association.
Darcy Mentone, the Vail Unified School District director of communications and public affairs, confirmed to Check Your Fact via email the “current board members have not resigned and can only be removed through an official recall election.”
“An election of school board members must be done through an official and legal election process… the same way a mayor or any other elected official would get elected. The mask mandate is still in place,” Mentone said. “Only the legally elected governing board can overturn it. For a recall to occur a resident must apply for a recall petition and collect signatures (25% of the eligible voters). If the signatures are collected then the recall question can be voted on in the next general election.”
KGUN 9 reported the protesters claimed to have used Robert’s Rules of Order to elect a new school board. Steve Portnell, an Arizona-based lawyer, told the outlet Robert’s Rules did not give them the legal ability to do such a thing.
“Roberts Rules of Order have been around for decades and really provide a way of conducting open meetings, public meetings, in an orderly fashion,” Portell said. “They don’t have the legal impact of supplanting Arizona law and removing elected officials from office.”
Carruth wrote in an April 30 letter to parents that “during outdoor activities students will now have the choice of wearing a mask or removing it” starting May 3, though all K-12 students “must continue to wear masks while indoors and while riding district transportation.” The school district’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies “will remain in place for the remainder of the school year,” Carruth said in the letter.