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Bend-La Pine School Board adopts school return plan with mask mandate at divisive meeting

(Update: Adding video, comments deicision)

Parent: 'I don't fully understand the statistics behind this'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Hundreds gathered at Bend Senior High School for a tension-filled Bend-La Pine School Board meeting Tuesday evening, as many showed up in opposition to state mask mandates in the schools, while others wore masks in the school's auditorium. After emotional testimony and a break after some accusations, the board adopted the superintendents plan for returning to schools, including students wearing masks indoors in most situations

Before NewsChannel 21 even entered the building, community members on both sides of the mask debate were already arguing outside the entrance.

Many of those who opposed mask mandates became upset with the Central Oregon Peacekeepers prior to the start of the meeting when they knelt during the Pledge of Allegiance.

During a heated public comment section, many parents voiced their frustrations with mask requirements for their children, while some supported the move.

One parent, Kelly Plunkett, who works as a nursing manager at St. Charles Health System, even showed up in full PPE gear to voice her support for masks.

"Well first, I want to thank the Bend-La Pine School Board for moving forward with children to wear masks this year when school begins in September," Plunkett said.

Another parent, Jonathon Chance, who works as a high school teacher for the district, said although he is for masks this fall, he was concerned that schools were used as a vaccination site.

"I was dismayed this last spring, when the schools were used for multiple vaccination clinics," Chance said. "Our natural immunity is a natural right."

Another parent, Brandon Merritt, says he believes the school board lacks leadership.

Merritt had his initial public comment cut off, as school board members stormed out of the meeting, claiming he made personal attacks against board members.

The meeting was adjourned for a recess, and later returned, when Merritt was allowed to finish.

"You cannot be effective leaders when you lose credibility in the community and choose to not take responsibility for your actions," Merritt said. "You can, however, lead by example tonight and acknowledge these mistakes, and you might just be surprised with what you're met with -- love, empathy, compassion and forgiveness."

Others parents like Christina Emerson said they want more transparency from the school board when it comes to making decisions.

"I don't fully understand the statistics behind this or the numbers," Emerson said. "I would like to see hard data, not percentages, but numbers to show the reason behind these decisions."

Another commenter expressed her dislike for school boards in general.

"Teachers unions, PTA, school boards, and some teachers seem to have a lot of dislike for children," the woman said. "They feed off of and promote Marxism."

One parent, however, was not concerned with masks at all.

Riccardo Waites, founder of the Central Oregon Black Leaders Assembly, says he's more concerned with how his children are being treated in the district.

"It doesn't matter to me if my child has a mask on or not, if they are being assaulted without justice in school," Waites said. "Mask or no mask means nothing when my daughter is being called 'n*****' on the bus." 

Former student Sonya Arnis voiced her opinion on critical race theory, despite many opposing it during the public comment section.

"What I needed to learn instead was the actual, true history of the United States, not a version that was sugar-coated, picked through and at times false," Arnis said. "I needed to learn about the Black Panther movement, as well as the civil rights movement. I needed to learn about Malcolm X, as well as Martin Luther King. I needed to learn about Stonewall and Karl Marx as well as Ruby Bridges."

Groups of people also left the meeting early following the abrupt recess, saying they were very frustrated with how everything had played out.

In the end, the school board unanimously adopted the return-to-school plan proposed by Superintendent Dr. Steven Cook. Bend-La Pine School are slated to start their fall term on Sept. 8.

Author Profile Photo

Alec Nolan

Alec Nolan is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Alec here.



  1. I am a retired teacher. If I were still working, I would not want to be in a classroom unless everyone was masked. To me, it’s common sense until we can get the number of COVID cases down. The most important thing is to keep kids in in-person classes.

    1. Nooo- You are not a retired teacher- you are one of Barney’s Kids with a new screen name ! real teachers don’t need masks in the classroom- I’ve spoken to dozens ! So stop the charade !

      1. BGHW ~ regarding your screen name comment(s), newest war cry / whine.

        I’m wondering if you are an expert in identifying this based on you personal experience?

    2. cases of cold and cases of flu and cases and cases and cases mean nothing.. its the deaths that use to qualify pandemic but thats been changed to accommodate the intentional collapse of our economy and the middle class by our own governments.

  2. So these people went for a giant bitching-fest. Of COURSE the school district is going to follow the state order. Duh. Don’t like it – homeschool. If they really wanted to do something besides complain and whine they would wear a mask and get the vaccine. Stop with the stupid theatrical displays. It is old. It is annoying. We have stuff to get done and we can’t as a society because some people want to throw temper tantrums in the middle of a global pandemic. Grow up.

      1. They’re demonstrating their lack of understanding of basic science and medicine. Yes they have a right to; no it’s not easy to understand so much ignorance and misplaced frustration. There’s a damn pandemic going on – not hard to figure out that public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID and move closer to mass immunity are obviously sound policy and appropriate for public schools.

        1. Basic science? So what about Obama, Talib, AOC, Lightfoot ect. all of them have been going to big events with strangers, no masks, no social distancing nothing. Thats ok though right? But yet our kids have to wear the masks.

          1. Considering that they are all ADULTS and can decide if they people that they want to interact with that are vaccinated – WHO CARES! Stay on point. Children younger than 12 can not even get a vaccine yet.

          2. Well Obama just had his super spreader birthday back birthday bash at his 12 million dollar mansion it’s mansion but not to worry because another Democrat said this was different they are all sophisticated people

        2. His science is Relative and ever changing what may be true one day may not be true anothe. Science is nothing but a bunch of hypothesis and theories. But again they’re relative and ever changing

      2. They are attempting to impose their world view on others and threatenig the lives of me and mine as surety as a drunk driver in a school zone.

        1. Being asked to wear a mask is “imposing a world view.” My how a little bit of cloth or paper has been elevated from a tool to something of such grandeur! Right up there with Old Glory!

    1. hey now there’s nothing wrong with making little kids wear something not unlike dirty underwear on their mouth all day.. they should wear a mask because old people die.. and its their fault! fauci said asymptomatic carriers have never been the spreaders of disease but then he changed his mind..its only permissable to spread covid via breakthrough infection via vaccination becasue its not a persons fault that their body is now a spike protein factory spitting out pieces of the virus with no shut off switch. and they can’t donate convelescent plasma becasue they have no immune system.. you now have a spike protein production system instead.. so we should be protecting the children from you now that they werent included in the pandemic until after the vaccination started and the delta variant that the test doesn’t test for came about..

        1. Your persistence in providing the terminally willfully ignorant with basic scientific understanding is admirable and we appreciate you diligence.

        2. “Most of the nations doctors” is an invalid statement. I’d say most of central Oregon’s doctors are unvaccinated because they follow the science instead of the media’s propaganda. The messenger ribonucleic acid experiment isn’t something most doctors want injected into their bodies. They wouldn’t tell you that though, because diehard Democrats would do what they do best: bully, call names, ruin their lives and careers and threaten the doctors who are choosing their safety over being socially acceptable.


          1. The seasonal flu vaccine is RNA based. This “experiment” has decades of study behind it, and millions if not billions of doses of flu vaccine have been put into bodies, including doctors, nurses, and maybe…you?

      1. Interesting I read on the CDC website that surgical mass do not help in protecting people from the covid. The N95 mask is a better choice for protection. So all those designer surgical mask that some people are wearing and the standard surgical masks do not help protect against the virus. Is as a nurse for 30 years for 30 years We did not wear a surgical mask to enter a room where a patient Was contagious We wore an N95 mask.

    2. Hey and those parents who elect to
      to home school their kids as a result of the government taking over their rights to decide for their own children whether their children wear 😷 or not wear masks need to be exempt from paying property taxes.

      hether to wear a mask or not wear a mask They can then be exempt from is exempt from having to pay property taxes because the majority of taxes go to schools

      1. Perhaps we should exempt childless people from having to pay property taxes too. Only thing is, all of society benefits from the education of our kids, and a mask does not plug up their ears, cover their eyes, close their minds, or impair the ability of any child to learn. Everything else is a bunch of snowflake BS made up to support freedumbs and rights that don’t exist.

  3. Those ever trumpers just can’t get wearing masks. The Donald never wore a mask. He got covid and it was no big deal. He drove around Walter Reed waving to the faithful and had his Mussolini moment on the balcony of the White House to let his people know it was no big deal. (unless you were one of the 600,000+)

    1. News flash…Donald Trump is not the president. Joe Biden has been in office nearly seven months. Might want to get up to speed on current events.

              1. I’m beginning to think more and more that his supporters don’t believe in democracy any more and want authoritarian governance. Freedom truly will become “just another word for nothing left to lose.”

    2. Okay, we are talking former president let’s talk about last weeks news of Obama party with no mask in sight at the party. Just food for thought

    3. You need to get your president jomentia to stop the flow of illegal aliens coming into this country without vetting without vetting them many carry their covid virus it’s bedvirus why aren’t you concerned about that Instead of complaining about American citizens

    4. Liberals are the ones who don’t understand why people are against wearing masks: just because Trump didn’t wear a mask doesn’t mean they work, which is liberal logic. Kind of circular don’t ya think?

  4. What is the problem? If people want their kids to wear or not wear masks, they have the right to make this decision. Since when does the Government dictate this??? The parents have the ultimate right.

      1. And than using your same logic students with herpes, or aids wouldn’t be allowed to play sports right? They might “infect” someone. Stop the bs.

      2. Are you vaccinated for syphilis? If not, what makes you feel you have the right to infect me? Are you vaccinated for HIV? Again, what makes you feel you have the right to infect me? Are you vaccinate for Ebola? And so on, and so on, and so on. Stop being a lame duck!

      3. There is absolutely no such thing as an asymptomatically infected person. That is theater and an agenda push. You are too easily manipulated.

      4. Unless those masks are in 95 certified they are useless the only ones at that time when covid started was satisfied for hospital workers is burker’s and other emergency personnel

    1. Don’t send your kids to school if you don’t want to follow public safety protocol. Seems pretty simple. What’s the problem? Your freedumbs to infect other people’s children?

    2. Many liberals seem to think their rights are granted by the government. They don’t understand that the case has to be made to mandate suspension of individual choice, which certainly hasn’t been done. The best information I am aware of is that mandates haven’t worked throughout the US nor around the world. People are going to do what they are going to do voluntarily and the mandates do nothing but wreak havoc on the economy, businesses and the mental health of many people’s lives. The average US life span has decreased by years in 2020, which to my knowledge is unprecedented and isn’t explained by covid, and does suggest the lockdowns may be to blame.

        1. I do agree that the life expectancy has decreased in “association” with covid.

          From the first article (all caps for emphasis): “Impacts on life expectancy are likely to be even larger once excess mortality FROM OTHER CAUSES is taken into account.” Andrasfay cautioned. I forget the details from the first article I read, but it seems the life expectancy started to go down after restrictions were put into place, but prior to covid accelerating deaths.

          Second article: “Some reduction in life expectancy may persist beyond 2020 because of continued COVID-19 mortality and LONG-TERM health, social, and economic impacts of the pandemic.”

          Third article is more educational about what life expectancy numbers mean.

          None of the articles break out the decrease in total life expectancy due directly to covid associated deaths versus deaths related to the mandatory shut downs. There is certainly a strong association, but the point I am making is that the mandatory shutdowns may could be causing more death than the infections.

    3. Schools have been requiring proof of vaccination before admission for decades. There is no ultimate right where the general good and public health are concerned. The precedent for mandates, whether masks or jabs, was set a long time ago.

      1. CRT Is used Only by those that want to sow racial division. In addition the topic is people’s right to determine whether they have the right to make decisions for their own kids.

              1. I guess I’m confused, I thought Trump lost, and is the reason for lower gas prices, lower unemployment, inflation at a all time low. And the virus happened only because Trump was in office, not because it came from a lab in a country that loves democracy and freedom of speech. And for certain its Trumps fault for the vaccine being delayed, and all the non mask wearing people that just want to infect and kill us all, there can be no other reason for not wearing a mask, they want to infect us, and they won’t get the vaccine because that would protect them and us, and they don’t want that. Don’t they realize the danger they pose on all of us?? And they also believe that all of the data and doctors is a big conspiracy, and Dr Fauci isn’t credible. Are you kidding, he saved many lives, he told us the masks save lives, and that this vaccine will save many lives because never before has there ever been a vaccine that is effective against a respiratory virus, and even though this is still true, that no vaccine is effective against a respiratory virus, I still believe him, he is very credible, has never changed on his recommendations. And this country is better off now than when Trump was in there, gas prices are the lowest they have been in 10 years, groceries are the lowest, inflation is the lowest and unemployment is at all time low, and we are now the most welcoming country on the planet.
                He had more popular votes than any president, he has turned this whole thing around and has us heading in the right direction.

        1. There’s more than one version and what you said is what CRT proponents say when lying. How does the term “anti-racist” sound to you? Better? Can you even define what CRT is in law school versus how it is being used in public schools?

          Schools should not be publicly supported to negatively revise history out of context for a specific agenda of “educating” children that those who are white are oppressors and darker toned are the too weak to fend for themselves. Heck, I’m not dark and I find the concept of telling minorities they just can’t make it is preposterous. Minorities don’t need white people to come and save them.

  5. As a citizen of these United States of America, I am guaranteed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Do not tread on my rights, EVER. Maybe you forgot or more likely you were never taught about the Bill of Rights?

    1. That’s not from the Constitution of the United States. The Bill of Rights is critical to our liberty; but those are not absolute rights either – check 200+ years of Supreme Court decisions.

    2. You are exactly right! “Right to life”, and if that means to increase my chances for the right to life is to wear a mask, then wear a ***** mask!

    1. There is no honor system with people who are not honorable. We’ve seen how ‘honorable’ these covidiots are for over a year. If you don’t like the mask mandate, find a private school that doesn’t require masks, or homeschool. You don’t have a right to infect other people’s kids. Pretty simple really.

  6. Glad they aren’t my parents. LOVE WINS! We would be over this by now, if they vaccinated and wore masks when they were asked instead of staging a coup, hating on their neighbors,
    and scouring the internet for conspiracy porn. I mean, really. Leave these poor school board members the time to devote to matters of importance. Parents, your fight to unmask is up there with southerners fight to not wear shoes, despite massive hookworm outbreaks. History repeats. Same tired excuse, almost identical uniformed, unqualified, hysteria. Preschool kids can do it. Maybe you consider the very real issue that lockdowns and remote learning has on mental health AND create better interventions with to mental health across the board instead of creating situations that cause illness, death, and destruction by leading us back into health crises. Cannot just pretend viruses away. Cannot yell them away, bully them away, lecture them away. It’s not awesome, not horrible. Protects your school community. Do you not want loving community members out of your kids, because your parenting priorities tell a different story. Learn to love.

    1. I find it interesting that “LoveWins”, but only if I agree with your agenda. Otherwise, it’s BlamingWins (if only you had vaccinated and worn masks when you were told to); AccusingWins (you hate your neighbors); RacismWins (your fight is right up there with Southerners doing anything); ShamingWins (don’t you want your kids to be better?!?). Let’s just say in this case, FactsWins (2020 worldwide population of 7.88 billion/2020 worldwide COVID deaths of 4.3 million = 99.9945% survivability rate) or is that just more internet porn? Love ya!

  7. I am very grateful that President Biden came into office. He has done an outstanding job and is still doing everything he can to rid us of this pandemic. The other guy just played it down knowing it was airborne and deadly. He is on tape saying so. Thank you President Biden, keep up the good work.

  8. Nice job parent’s against masks that don’t work, against jabs that cause long-term effects, myocarditis, and blood clogs. Fight against racist CRT! Keep fighting for your children, we have a very evil corrupted government combined with MSM and they are after the kids. =)

    1. Maybe you should stick to what you know best. You know, like Mike Lindell and his cyber **** show symposium that you hawked the other day. How’d that turn out for you? I read that FOX didn’t cover it and the pillo

  9. What wrong bendover? The all mighty bend has fallen like the rest of central Oregon. Just of burnt out liberals realizing that their city has fallen. Time to pack your crap up and go contaminate some other state.

  10. Sad that these parents are all about politics and not what’s best for their kids! It’s not about health, learning, socialization or curriculum. It’s all about their own political views, so disgusting!

    1. Yep and kids are incredibly resilient. It’s the parents who are the issue. They have absolutely, unequivocally, every right to homeschool. Then they can teach their anti-science, alternative facts BS to them at home. But methinks losing that free babysitting service would really cramp their paychecks.

  11. Pediatric cases of covid are increasing as well as pediatric hospitalizations with new variant. No agenda by saying this, just facts. Look at Florida, Texas, for reference. States where the school boards are actually having to defy governors orders to request masks be worn because they are seeing their children become very sick! Personally I would take every precaution possible to protect my child from getting ill. These parents are pitching bigger tantrums about having to wear masks than the children do! This is temporary. This will not last forever. But the longer people act irresponsibly and selfishly because of “THEIR rights”, the longer this will be dragged out.

    1. Your point is spot on and is beyond dispute which is why those at last nights board meeting were focused on ad hominem, misdirection and mendacity.

      Delta is driving pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations to an all-time peak. What do we do about America’s unvaccinated kids?

      Delta Is Bad News for Kids
      More children are falling ill because more are being infected.

  12. Interesting that the very same people demanding everyone to mask up has absolutely no problem with tens of thousands of illegal aliens pouring through the Southern border every month and getting transported all over the country, no mask, no test, many having COVID already infecting citizens all over the country.
    But liberal and logic are mutually exclusive terms.

    1. Stay on topic Lassie. This is a local school board. Talking about children in grades K-12. They have zero control over the southern border. We are talking about protecting children in Bend.

      1. It is very much on topic. Illegals are spreading the virus like … and now we have to mask up in order to control the spread. It is not like illegal aliens are stopped at the city limits and not allowed to enter.

  13. Let’s just keep this going forever. New variants and more deaths. Eventually the weeds will wither and we’ll be left with the ones that got the science in the first place.

  14. Good job Barney steering racial tension in a city where 99.9% (just a guess) of the population is Caucasian. I always find it amusing when the so called media voices a single person’s whining as it was some widespread problem telling the rest of the population that something is wrong with them because of their skin color.
    And why the hell are these “peacekeeper” people allowed on a school board meeting to terrorize and intimidate parents, are they all have children in schools?
    Go ahead just censor my post, that’s what the cancel culture does best!

  15. All this plus the drama queens (and kings) calling themselves “peacekeepers”.

    Anymore they remind me of the Westboro Baptist Church loons.

    Can I get an “Amen”?

    1. Noxious, you’ve earned some serious shade with that comment. To characterize those who choose home schooling as white supremacists is at best ignorant, and at worst represents a malicious intolerance of those parents who don’t subscribe to your own ideological myopia. That approach will rarely, if ever, endear anyone capable of critical thinking to your point of view.

      It’s what you learn after you know it all that matters most – John Wooden

      1. Are you affiliated with the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) or perhaps the the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)…my bet is both.

  16. If AOC, Obama, Talib, Pelosi, Biden, Kamala, Lightfoot can all go to big events over the past few weeks with no masks or social distancing then why do the children have to? Anyone backing this is a *******sheep! They are the ones trying to enforce this crap that they don’t follow themselves!

    1. Obama’s bash didn’t happen. You’ll have to find something else to blame. Maybe the Trump, Gaetz and Taylor-Green rallies? We all know how they feel about masks.

  17. Instead of defunding police, we should defund the schools, at least until this over. we can stop dedicating a portion of the property tax to schools, let the parents keep it and decide how they want to educate their kids. Clearly the school district has lost sight of the fact that WE own the schools and all the infrastructure in place, not them. NEA can build their own schools with their own money if they want to continue down this path. Governor Browns decision to eliminate standards for math and English for high school graduates is glaring proof that the schools and their support staff care little about a child’s education, but care a lot about their paychecks and pensions. Simple solution, defund the schools.

      1. If everyone wears a mask do you think Kate Brown and Oregon educators will decide that minorities and people of color are smart enough to read and do math? Or will the policy of not requiring high school graduates to read and write still be in place. Pretty poor reflection of our schools when teachers decide that minorities are not smart enough to learn basic math and English to graduate, or….maybe the teachers are just too lazy to bother teaching????

    1. Exactly home schooling your kids the would get a better education and less indoctrination. As a big incentive exempt them from paying some property taxes of which a big portion goes to schools/indoctrination centers

    1. Careful, now. If the crazies reading your comment think you are suggesting gun control, watch out!
      They care not about school mass murders, so long as their right to bear arms and kill children is safe.
      “Guns forever, masks never!” “Guns forever, vaccinations never!” “There is no proof of climate change!”
      “You cannot prove the earth is not flat!”

    2. Speaking of that tell your president Joe mentioned is president jomentia to stop allowing illegal aliens into the country many have the covid virus

      1. Already posted rebuttals to your accusations about infected aliens, but I guess you’re one of those who doesn’t care about the truth when it’s not YOUR truth.

  18. It’s easy, we are supposed to shut our mouths, wear the mask get vaccinated, they know better than we do! Just like accept the wide open border with infected immigrants coming in the country. Never do I hear anyone of these left fear driven losers ever address that problem. What a fraud, and contradiction! Name one thing good this loser has done for this country since being in office, name one!?!can you loser lefty ever educate your self, can you read facts, you absolutely have no logic in your thinking, and you wreck everything around you.

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