Editor’s note: Felix Hume is an 11-year-old mask resister in the sixth grade at Edmunds Middle School in Burlington. Here is his story, as told to Vermont Daily Chronicle August 26 by his mother, Jennifer Hume.
I spent countless hours last year having a pretty one sided conversation with Superintendent Tom Flanagan, and the principal and nurse of Edmunds Elementary School, and the Agency of Education and Department of Health.
They should have understood very well my reasons for not wanting my son to wear a mask for seven hours straight, including while playing hard in the sun outside. I was thorough and articulate again and again in emails, and phone calls.
What was surprising was that I never really understood their reasons for thinking it WAS a good idea for the kids to wear masks. I asked over and over to see the science, and I was particularly interested in the scientific explanation for how COVID went away magically at lunch time, or in crowded bars and restaurants, but could apparently be spread by my son alone on the playground. He was once even told by the recess teacher that if he didn’t put his mask on he’d be held back and repeat fifth grade!
Yesterday [Wednesday, August 25] he entered the building at 7:55 at the start of the day in a crowd of children, not wearing a mask, and no one noticed except a staff member who offered a mask and he shook his head and kept moving.
He made it through homeroom and band with no incidents, but at the end of band (around 10 am or so) some adult (Felix doesn’t know who it was) took note and asked Felix to come to his classroom. The two of them went to a room alone where this man told Felix his own 10 year-old-daughter had had a very bad case of COVID. Felix refused a mask and the man escorted him to the assistant principal.
Felix continued to refuse to wear a mask and the assistant principal asked Felix to go outside with them (uses they/them pronouns.) The assistant principal called me. I told the AP I supported Felix in his decision to not wear a mask. They ended the call and the principal called me, and I stated the same thing. I reminded the principal they have no legal authority to force my son to wear a mask, but that the constitution does state that he has the right to his education.
The principal asked me to come to the school. I did, and we spent some time discussing options. I clarified that they cannot force Felix to wear a mask. They suggested that if he were to enter without a mask it could be considered trespassing. We were all outside, and they wouldn’t let him back in the building. All doors were locked. He tried some of the windows and I asked him not to try to go in a window.
At this point, Felix told the principal he needed to pee. She stated he must wear his mask to go in to the bathroom. He eventually said he would, put on his mask, and the second he was in the door took it off and took off running! He found his classroom and was allowed to stay the rest of the day, as they had no authority to force him to leave.
Felix entered the building today maskless and stayed nearly all day. I came and got him early because of an incident tangentially related to the mask- more details on that once we’ve had the convo tomorrow morning, hopefully with the superintendent. (Unfortunately, Felix lost his temper during that incident, not in a way that harmed any other person, but he and I have discussed that he needs to stay calm even when it’s hard.)
Felix is now being isolated, forced to sit alone in a corner. They took the fan that was pointed at him and pointed it the other way, presumably to remove the germs from his section of the classroom.
He states that unlike last year, none of the kids seem interested in debating the mask issue with him, which is a great improvement. Last year there was a lot of bullying (You’re going to kill someone!!! etc.) This year, it’s just the grown-ups bullying.
Felix overheard three children complaining about their masks. He encouraged each one to take off the mask: “You see, you can take off your mask and they can’t do anything to you.” He said the teacher, Mrs. Ortiz, told him firmly he is not to tell the kids to take off their masks. I suspect this is part of why they seem desperate to figure out a way to keep him out of school.