Parents petition to recall school board members over previous mask mandate

NOW: Parents petition to recall school board members over previous mask mandate

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mi. -- Just a few weeks after a lawsuit filed against school districts in Berrien County was dismissed, Parents for School Freedom-- who oppose school mask mandates-- are now seeking to recall the members of several different school boards, in an effort to prevent further mandates in the future.

“For our voices to be ignored, we just can’t stand for that," said Victory Woodall, spokesperson for Parents for School Freedom. “These school boards know what the bulk of the community wants because we’re voicing our opinions, and we’re telling them and they wouldn’t hear it, they wouldn’t change their minds. They kept doing mandates, they kept ignoring the voice of the people.”

Recall petitions have already been approved for school board members and trustees in Watervliet and St. Joseph Public Schools, and the Berrien County Election Commission accepted petitions to recall more school board members in Lakeshore Public Schools and Niles Community Schools:

Watervliet Public Schools:

  • Bill Spaulding, Board President

St. Joseph Public Schools:

  • Bret Wier, Trustee
  • Kathy Weycamp, Trustee

Lakeshore Public Schools:

  • Dr. Jason Beckrow, Board President
  • Rachel Wade, Secretary

Niles Community Schools:

  • Mark Wortham, Board President
  • Kyle Zelmer, Treasurer
  • David Fish, Trustee

“We were very strategic in picking who we were going to recall," said Woodall. "Some teams in districts got together and decided ‘hey we’re going to go for the head, we’re going for the school board president because we want to start at the top.’ Other ones said ‘we’re going to pick off the weak ones and replace them with strong people who are going to fight for freedom.’”

Those eight members of those districts could be recalled in an upcoming election now that the petitions have been approved. 

Lakeshore School Board President Dr. Jason Beckrow issued this statement in regard to the petition, filed by Amy Foster. 

"While we disagree with the conclusions drawn by Ms. Foster and her colleagues, we support their right to air their grievances and respect the process to do so. They now have the opportunity to ask publicly and objectively if a majority of the people agree with them or not. As we have stated previously, we aim to serve at the will of the people, ALL of the people and not just a select few. We aim to do all we can to support public education and the educators in our community.

The petitioners will need to get thousands of signatures in those districts before a recall vote is approved; not all area residents are in favor of the effort.

“My kids go to St. Joe, and they stayed in school almost the whole time because of the mask mandates," said Alli Lafond. "So I don’t believe parents should be trying to recall board members simply because they voted to keep a mask mandate, from my understanding, just a little bit longer than it would have been pulled anyways.”

And despite supporting the mask mandate, Lafond felt that it's unlikely a school board would even try to enforce another mandate in the future.

“They probably won’t because of the backlash that they’ve gotten," she said. "I know that certain boards tend to be more passionate about it than others, but I think that if—hopefully Michigan doesn’t get to a place where we feel like we need one—but I don’t think that they’re going to put up as strong of a fight this time, so I guess we’ll see.”

The other school boards did not respond for comment. 

The Parents for School Freedom don't plan on stopping with these four school districts-- they plan on petitioning to recall school board members at Bridgman Public Schools.

They said they have candidates in mind to replace these targeted board members, though they will announce them at a later date. 

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