With the coronavirus pandemic ebbing locally at the moment, Redlands Unified School District board meetings are once again in-person, as are the heated masking and vaccination debates that didn’t go away in the virtual setting.
On Tuesday, March 8, the Board of Trustees met in person for the first time in half a year, a move that led to officials being physically served a list of demands related to pandemic policies, and one man being escorted out while yelling at a speaker.
At the last in-person meeting in September 2021 proceedings were stopped after 20 minutes when a different speaker refused to wear a mask, and told trustees he would make the mask/vaccine debate “personal.”
Earlier that summer police were called to a meeting when members of the public were barred from entering until they put on masks. Members of the crowd outside started banging on the doors and ripping down posters, according to the district.
Safety precautions for Tuesday’s meeting included metal detectors, moving the location to the larger Citrus Valley High School theater, and the presence of about a half-dozen school security personnel, including Redlands Police Department’s two school resource officers.
About 50 members of the public attended.
Board President Jim O’Neill asked Tuesday’s attendees to put on their masks just before the meeting started, as a student had entered. If no student were present, he said, masks would have been optional. Most attendees complied immediately, and a few were handed masks by security personnel.
The mostly peaceful meeting Tuesday night heated up during the public comment period.
Highland resident Heidi Stutzman told board members they were being served with “a letter of intent for claims to be filed against your liability and criminal insurance policies.”
Several members of the public then walked onto the stage to hand the paperwork to Trustees Patty Holohan, Alex Vara and Melissa Ayala-Quintero, and Superintendent Mauricio Arellano.
“Tonight I’m speaking out to hold you all accountable for implementing the measures which have caused emotional distress, disruption and delays in our children’s learning, mental and health issues in negative capacities,” Stutzman said.
Along with the letter of intent was a list of demands to be rectified within five business days. She did not list the demands.
On Wednesday, district spokeswoman Christine Stephens said she was not able to forward a copy of the documents.
“If these demands are not met we will proceed swiftly with filing a claim with each of your criminal and liability policies,” Stutzman warned Tuesday night.
Stephens said as of Wednesday afternoon the district had no comment regarding the demands.
Several minutes after Stutzman spoke, a member of the pro-mask Save Redlands Schools group told the board she had been targeted and harassed in the parking lot after the last in-person meeting in September.
As she finished, a man who had just spoken against masks and vaccines and had identified himself as “J.B.” yelled, “Are you targeting me?”
O’Neill asked the man to leave.
“Thanks for targeting me … speaking of targets,” he yelled as he was escorted out.
“Is that a threat?” a female voice asked back.
Redlands spokesman Carl Baker said there were no arrests at the meeting.
“We’ll make sure you are safely escorted to you car,” O’Neill told the female speaker. “There’s no reason for that kind of behavior. I’m sorry and I’m disappointed.”
The state is ending masking policies for K-12 schools on Saturday, March 12.