Bismarck Board of Health pitches mask issue to Bismarck School Board

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 4:08 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Tuesday, Your News Leader told you about a letter sent to the Bismarck Board of Health asking for stricter COVID-19 mitigation efforts in Bismarck Public Schools.

On Wednesday, the Board of Health held a meeting addressing the letter.

When parents and community members sent the letter to the Bismarck Board of Health, it raised the question of who has the authority to enforce mask mandates in the school district. Wednesday’s meeting was held to address just that.

The letter from the BPS Parent and Community Coalition for COVID-19 Safety in Schools asks for the Board of Health to step in and enforce masking in Bismarck Public Schools.

Commissioners made it clear that the decision is not in their jurisdiction.

“We cannot step out of our lane and dictate what the public schools have done. So, I will make a motion based on the act that we do not have the authority to approve this and deny this request,” said Commissioner Greg Zenker.

The motion passed unanimously. Several attendees in the audience said they’re relieved over the results.

“When it comes to mandating masks in schools, I’m pro-freedom. I’m pro-choice when it comes to whether you want your kids to cover their faces or not,” said Mindy Backsen, a BPS parent.

Karen Dunlap, an organizer of the letter, provided an e-mailed response to the Board of Health after the meeting, saying they understood this was the responsibility of the school board.

“We knew this was the case, but needed to have a forum for it to be stated in public... that the school board has been attempting to mislead the concerned parents and community members,” said Dunlap in a statement.

In an interview Tuesday, school board president Jon Lee said masks will remain recommended, not required in Bismarck Public Schools.

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