Weare School Board member quits, says mask mandates are child abuse

  • Rochelle Kelley gets ready to enter the Concord District Court on Wednesday morning, August 11, 2021. Kelley, 33, was tried and acquitted of charges of criminal mischief and disorderly conduct after police said she and two other people defied orders to leave Concord’s Rollins Park playground in April 2020. She resigned from the school board last week, equating mask mandates to child abuse. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 9/27/2021 2:02:19 PM

An outspoken Weare School Board member has resigned after a universal mask mandate was passed for the district, and a special meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday to discuss filling the position.

Board member Rochelle Kelley submitted a letter of resignation Thursday, two days after the school board voted 3-2 to require universal masking indoors when there is a COVID-19 outbreak with multiple clusters. In August, board members had voted to make masks optional for everyone in the district, something superintendent Jacqueline Coe said “significantly altered the effectiveness” of their safety plan. Coe said there are two COVID-19 clusters at Center Woods Elementary School, where at least 10 people tested positive for COVID-19 while in the building.

Kelley has been vocal this year in advocating for masks to be optional in schools. In her resignation letter, which was posted to social media, Kelley likened the situation to child abuse.

“Forcing a child to do something with their body that they do not want to do, is in fact child abuse,” Kelley wrote in her resignation letter. “Our children deserve a chance at a normal life free of the abuse the district is putting them through and currently that is not being done.”

In the 2020-2021 school year, Weare School District had 13 positive cases of COVID-19 that involved exposure in the building. So far this year, after 15 days of school, there have been 15 cases of COVID-19 that involved exposure in the buildings, according to Coe.

At their Sept. 21 meeting, an argument broke out among board members after the vote, and after Kelley stood up to applaud some community members who interrupted the meeting. Other members protested the interruption, citing point of order. At one point, Kelley used her microphone to accuse other board members of hiring a private investigator to follow her in recent weeks.

“A school board is meant to be a group of members who work together, respect each other, listen to one another’s ideas and most importantly represent the students and families in our district,” Kelley wrote in the resignation letter. “I feel that the Weare School Board is doing none of that. Personal vendettas have come before the children in our school.”

The school board will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Weare Middle School cafeteria, where they will discuss the resignation and take action to fill the vacancy, according to the agenda. The meeting will be also be broadcast live over the internet.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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