Tuesday evening's Portland Public Schools Board of Education meeting barely got started when it was abruptly called to a close.
A group attending the Oct. 26 session refused to wear masks in the meeting room at the school district's headquarters on North Dixon Avenue. Oregon has an indoor mask mandate that remains in effect.
"I need to see 100% compliance with the mask mandate, please, or I will adjourn," PPS Board Chair Michelle DePass warned those in attendance. Immediately afterward, she announced the meeting would be suspended and moved to a virtual location.
"We can't put everyone at risk," she announced, to shouting from the crowd.
Among other agenda items, the board was slated to discuss a possible vaccine mandate for students, following a series of listening sessions that took place the week prior.
PPS issued an announcement later that evening.
"The Portland Public Schools Board of Directors convened at 6:00 p.m. tonight in person for their regular board meeting," the district announced via Twitter. "One of the agenda items, the discussion about a vaccine mandate for students age 12 and older, garnered substantial public interest. As a result of numerous attendees refusing to properly wear face coverings, the PPS board chair suspended the meeting, which will now be streamed online."
Fox 12 Oregon news provided video footage showing an angry crowd shouting down the school board.The following day, PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero issued a statement about the disruption.
"Last night, the PPS Board of Education was scheduled to meet in person for their regular meeting," Guerrero stated. "A student vaccine requirement discussion on the agenda drew a large number of attendees, many without a shared concern for the health and safety of our collective community. Some of those attendees entered the PPS building masked, then took their masks off and refused to comply with PPS requests for all attendees to adhere to the statewide mask requirement … Even after the board meeting resumed, unmasked attendees remained inside the building.
"We are deeply disappointed that some attendees blatantly disregarded the statewide face covering requirement, creating a public health hazard for Portland's students, families, staff, members of the media, and board members. This is simply unacceptable. While we welcome a diversity of perspectives to be expressed in a public setting, Chair DePass made the right call in moving the discussion to a virtual setting, given the unwillingness of certain members of the audience to observe required public health requirements."
The superintendent noted that some students and staff overheard "racist and offensive language" used by the anti-mask group.
livestream of the meeting here.
This story has been updated with additional information since it was first published.
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