CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — Hundreds of parents showed up at the Douglas County School District Monday morning to protest the school board’s decision to require masks in schools. The protesters lined both sides of Wilcox Street in Castle Rock in front of the district’s offices and chanted things like, “Freedom over fear,” while cars passing by honked their horns.
The district decided on Friday to reaffirm its decision to require masks for students ages 2 to 11, along with the staff who works with these age groups despite the county commissioners choosing to opt-out.
The first day the new mask rule was implemented was Monday, so some parents pulled their kids from class to take part in the protest.
“This past year we’ve let people decide what is right for our children. I did not sign up when I had children to co-parent with the government,” said Brandy Bradley, who has four boys.
Bradley’s oldest sons have decided to stay in DCSD, but she moved her two youngest sons into a charter school that recently voted to make masks optional.
She doesn’t want students to go back to remote learning, but she also thinks parents should have the right to choose, and she doesn’t believe the district is listening to parents’ pleas.
“We’re conveying a message, we’ve been conveying a message but they’re not listening,” Bradley said. “I think the message here is maybe not that public schools are going to listen and make us not mask mandate, but let me tell you, we’ve spoken and on November 2nd we’re going to come out in droves.”
Other parents also told Denver7 they pulled their children out of school for the day and are either considering pulling them from the district or moving forward with plans to do so.
“I will take them to another state. I will take them somewhere where they’re going to get the education that they deserve,” Cheyenne Ueland, a mother of four.
Ueland’s child has a speech and language disorder. She says the past school year was particularly rough on her son since he couldn’t see people’s faces. Ueland says her son also developed a rash around his face and so she will not be putting him back in a mask this year.
“We know there are so many people that feel this way, and we’re tired of sacrificing our kids’ education for politics,” she said.
Some of the parents are so fed up with the district’s handling of COVID-19 that they’ve decided to run for the school board in November.
Christy Williams told Denver7 she decided to run after seeing how the school board handled the pandemic over the past year as a parent.
“(We need to) put education back in our parents’ hands, back in our teachers’ hands, empower and partner with our teachers and build trust within this community,” Williams said.
Becky Myers, meanwhile, is a retired Douglas County teacher who taught in the district for decades and said she decided to run for the sake of her grandchildren.
“Here’s what I want to see the board doing is focusing on her academic scores and not on political adult issues,” she said. “Why are we away from caring about what our parents choose for our children? Why is it that we’ve shifted away from other things?”
While hundreds of parents protested against masks, standing across the street from a crowd, three lone counter-protesters held up signs making the case for masks to be worn in schools.
“Douglas county is not unanimously opposed to masks. This is a small, small subsection of the electorate,” said one of the counter-protesters named Sue. “We understand the science.”
She said she showed up knowing there would be pushback on behalf of parents who support masks but were busy dropping their kids off at school and heading to work.
While Denver7 crews were trying to interview her, anti-mask protesters surrounded her, trying to block her from the cameras using their signs and chanting to try to drown out her voice.
The counter-protesters tried to move down the block away from the crowd, but the parents followed them and confronted them, trying to get them to leave.
“I should have the freedom to speak,” Sue said. “It’s really discouraging. It’s discouraging that these people are so angry. It’s discouraging that anger is playing such a role here.”
She said the most important message she was trying to convey is that not all of Douglas County is against masks, and she wants to protect children’s health.
By and large, though, the protest was calm but loud as parents tried to scream loud enough for the district to listen.
Denver7 reached out to DCSD as well as individual board members to ask for an interview or statement but was told the district has nothing more to add beyond its announcement Friday that masks would be required for some students.
Meanwhile, another 63 COVID cases were reported in the district Monday, including 15 from Chaparral High School.