Sheridan school board approves termination of staffer for not wearing mask
SHERIDAN — At least one Sheridan County School District 2 staff member has been officially terminated for not wearing a mask to work.
The SCSD2 Board of Trustees unanimously approved a personnel report for September, as submitted by district administrators, at its regular monthly meeting Monday night. The report included the termination of Ashley Davis, a paraprofessional at Sheridan Junior High School.
On her personal Facebook page, Davis stated she came home from the first day of school with a migraine headache, which she attributed to having to wear a mask.
“I talked to the superintendent (Scott Stults) and was told that if I can’t wear a mask I either had to resign or be terminated,” Davis said in the Facebook post. “I proceed to tell him I won’t resign because I absolutely love the kids I work with. … I am truly saddened how everything went down.”
Two SCSD2 teachers who previously informed The Press they had been placed on administrative leave for refusing to wear masks were not listed in the personnel report, however.
Davis could not be reached for comment prior or to confirm the Facebook post prior to deadlines Tuesday morning.
Stults added he could not comment further on Davis’ termination, which was effective Monday, and did not respond to verbal and emailed requests by The Press regarding any potential suspensions or terminations related to the mask requirement.
“The personnel action report ... is the public document regarding the board's action at last night's meeting,” Stults said. “Beyond that we are not allowed to make comments about specific personnel matters. … Unfortunately when it comes to personnel, we can not share detailed information.”
The personnel report was approved without discussion following a closed, executive session, with most of those in attendance prior to the break not there once the board returned to open session.
The board quickly voted on the issue and then adjourned. While the meeting ended quietly, tensions ran high over the district’s updated masking requirement before it even started.
Prior to the meeting being called to order, school officials confronted concerned parents and residents who had come to voice their concerns over the board’s vote Aug. 30 to require students, staff and visitors to wear masks while inside district facilities or at school events and on buses.
Stults told audience members prior to the meeting that anyone in attendance was required to wear a mask and would be escorted out of the building by Sheridan Police Department officers if they did not comply.
“I don’t want to do this,” Stults said. “I don’t want to get into that. Let’s leave it at that.”
Several individuals without masks could be seen talking to police officers in the hallway leading into the boardroom, later leaving the building and gathering outside.
As at previous meetings, several individuals from both sides made statements concerning the implementation of a mask requirement.
Tiffany Leimback, confounder of Free Our Faces, a local movement opposing mask requirements, presented the school board with two signed petitions, one calling for board members to voluntarily resign and a second seeking their recall from office.
“You’re continually not listening to the people of Sheridan County,” Leimback said. “You’re continually not listening to parents.”
Leimback added each petition contained about 200 signatures. SCSD2 board Chair Susan Wilson accepted the petitions without further comment.
According to Wyoming State Statute 21-3-110, a school board is required to consider any petition presented to it that includes signatures of at least five residents of the district and take action within 30 days after the petition is received, unless “the precise question presented by the petition has been considered and acted upon” by the school board at a meeting within that fiscal year.
In providing an update on the district’s Smart Start Plan, Stults said district officials again met with Sheridan County Public Health officials and that the county remains at red, or a high transmission level, for COVID-19 cases, with more than 70 new cases being reported over the weekend.
Without the mask requirement, Stults said one elementary school would have had to quarantine as many as 95 students due to close contact tracing.
“My point of emphasis is keeping students and staff safe and healthy so they get the face-to-face learning they need,” he said. “This is based on medical experts. It’s based on nothing else than those medical facts. … During these times, we have to make some very difficult decisions.”
“It’s the goal of this board to keep our kids in the buildings,” Wilson added.
Sheridan County School District 1 will tackle similar issues at its upcoming board meeting Sept. 21, with district officials confirming Monday one teacher had resigned, citing the school district’s current mask requirement as the reason.
Jeremy Smith, SCSD1 business manager, said no other details will be released regarding the reported resignation until the board takes action at the upcoming meeting.
“Until that is officially accepted, I can't (report) on the specific position or school,” Smith said. “(However) no teachers have been placed on leave or suspended for non-compliance. No hourly staff either.
“The COVID situation is difficult for all of our local leaders,” he added. “Hard decisions and choices are being made.”