Anti-mask protests were held outside the offices of some school jurisdictions on Monday morning, including Chinook’s Edge School Division in Innisfail.
Superintendent Kurt Sacher said about 50 to 70 people showed up, but it was peaceful and it wasn’t in front of a school, which he appreciated.
“People were peaceful. Lots of horn honking and flag waving and that sort of thing to make their point. They wanted to be heard and we wanted to hear what their interest was,” said Sacher who went out to listen to their concerns.
Last Wednesday and Thursday, a small group of students refused to wear masks and spent the day in the front lobby of Bowden Grandview School because staff were enforcing Alberta Health’s mask mandate.
The situation escalated on Thursday when social media posts went viral, for example, falsely claiming that the students were locked in a broom closet. Then came the threats to staff.
The school switched to online learning for Friday and Monday after discussions with the local RCMP.
Sacher said Monday’s protesters said their issue was not with the school division.
“Their main point around having a general concern for the social, emotional, well-being and mental health of our students as they make their way through two years of this pandemic is a legitimate concern.
“They want to move past all of those restrictions.”
He said they understood the requirement to follow the mandates, but wanted to make their concerns known to the local school board to see if trustees could help.
Sacher said it was unlike last week’s protest which was exacerbated by social media and misinformation. Multiple sources have since helped the public understand what happened in Bowden.
Last week, protests were held outside some Alberta schools.
A statement from Education Minister Adriana LaGrange Monday encouraged those who choose to disrupt the learning environment at any Alberta school to cease immediately.
“While all Canadians have a right to protest and express themselves, protests must be peaceful and within the confines of the law,” LaGrange said.
“Schools are not an appropriate place to protest public health measures, as this only serves to disrupt the education of Alberta students. Furthermore, unauthorized trespass on school property is unlawful.”
She said local school authorities and law enforcement have the tools to take action to ensure a safe and peaceful learning environment for students, and workplace for teachers and staff.