Washougal, WA — About 300 protesters gathered outside the Washougal School District (WSD) Administration Office Tuesday night to support two parents —Patricia Bellamy and Melissa Mcilwain — who were cited for trespassing two weeks ago at the last WSD School Board meeting.
Bellamy and Mcilwain attended the meeting to speak out against mask wearing and curriculum issues, and supported a third attendee who wasn’t wearing a mask.
“We supported her right to not wear a mask,” said Bellamy. “And, for that they adjourned the meeting.”
Bellamy said when the meeting re-started they wanted in, and their friend chalked cars and building walls to express her frustration. Police were called to the scene and all three were cited for trespassing and disorderly conduct, and told they could not enter any Washougal school property for a year. Bellamy said that order was reduced to the WSD Administration building now.
“Mel and I didn’t do anything wrong, and we feel they just wanted us to leave because of our support of our friend not wearing a mask,” said Bellamy.
The protestors brought in a fire truck onto the building parking lot and hoisted a flag atop the vehicle’s ladder, and occupied the front part of property. They sang songs, held flags and held signs, and ate barbecue hamburgers and hot dogs. Several lined the street both sides protesting masks in schools, equity programs and Critical Race Theory. Several addressed the audience.
This is a video interview with Bellamy and Mcilwain: https://youtu.be/6PkXrv7_ViA
The Washougal School Board issued this statement:
The Washougal School Board of Directors welcomes public comment at school board meetings, and values the input from community members. The board likes to hear from and listen to our community. The board appreciates those who come forward to share feedback, and recognizes that there are many perspectives that can help inform our civic process.
However, members of the public who come to board meetings must adhere to safety protocols that are in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who refuse to comply with safety rules will be asked to leave. When community members refuse lawful requests to vacate the board room and district property, and seek to disrupt the orderly business of the board, the board will seek support from local law enforcement, who will force non-compliant community members to leave.
The board will not tolerate the acts of vandalism, disorderly conduct, or intimidation that took place at last night’s meeting, including vandalism of the personal vehicles of board members and district staff, and the district office itself. These are not an effective means of informing our civic process. The board will continue to seek support from local law enforcement in fully prosecuting any acts of vandalism or disorderly conduct related to official board business. Community members engaging in these acts undermine the ability of the board to do the work of the public, and endanger themselves and others. This activity also impedes other community members from safely participating in the board’s meeting.
As part of Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-28.14, which amended Proclamations 20-05 and 20-28, the school board was allowed to begin in-person meetings, provided that the hosting complied with the Miscellaneous Venues guidance, which requires that the hosting venue require masking and social distancing for all attendees. The board has been meeting in-person since March 9, 2021. Members of the public who do not wish to participate in-person, which requires wearing a mask, are able to participate via Zoom.
At the May 11, 2021 meeting, the board responded to an interruption in the meeting by voting to recess again, and ordered the meeting room to be cleared, per RCW 42.30.050. Later in the evening, the board adjourned the meeting in response to a continued interruption that had escalated to vandalism of the District Office building and the personal vehicles of board members and school district staff, also per RCW 42.30.050. The board will move any pending agenda items to a future meeting.
Over the past several years, the board has worked to increase opportunities for public input during board meetings. The board has communicated the ways the public can provide input, established parameters to allow more voices to be heard, and added an additional public comment period to the agenda. They have also worked with district staff to provide opportunities for patrons to observe the board meeting via Zoom, increasing transparency. The regular school board business meeting format does not include the board responding to public testimony, but when appropriate, the board directs the superintendent to respond on behalf of the board. In order to ensure smooth functioning of our schools, the board strongly encourages patrons who wish to share feedback or engage in dialog about proposed changes to meet with school and district staff, who are most prepared to listen and provide additional information about changes that may come before the board.
Community members who wish to participate in board meetings are encouraged to participate via Zoom. Please refer to the board section of the Washougal School District website for protocols and the process to sign up for public comments.