(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misidentified the first name of the state trooper involved. Our apologies to State Trooper Nathan Jensen, who works out of the Westminster barracks in Windham County.)
By Guy Page
Two Lowell Graded School parents demanding their second-grade daughter be taught in the classroom without a mask were warned by a state trooper Thursday, Nov. 4 to take her home or risk arrest for trespass or loss of custody of their child.
The live Facebook video was recorded by the girl’s father, Andre “Mike” Desautels. In March, a Vermont judge sided with Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan and ordered Desautels to require his employees to wear masks.
As the video opens, Desautels explains he and wife Amy have a note from a doctor exempting his daughter from wearing a mask. However, the parents have been told that a doctor’s note isn’t enough and that the school needs to see a formal medical diagnosis in order to develop a 504 plan. Such plans are intended to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives the necessary accommodations.
“We did not agree to this as she did not need any special accommodations from anyone,” Amy Desautels explained via social media. “We had provided the doctor’s note which is what was stated on the NCSU guidelines for what they required and it did not specify what needed to be on the note.”
As seen on the video, Vermont State Trooper Andrew Jensen talked briefly with the couple, took a phone call, and then returned and then politely but firmly gave them three options.
“Your options are: Take your child, go home, fight this through the courts, through your lawyer, whatever,” Jensen said. “Option B: We escort your child out here, you refuse to take her home, and you refuse to leave. Therefore we place both of you under arrest for trespassing. Option C: you leave, but leave your child here, we contact DCF, possibly placing her in state custody for abandonment.”
“I cannot believe that you guys would get involved, especially because we have done everything required with our paperwork. And you’re going by what he (Castle) is telling you,” Desautels responded. He also said a child in Walden – another Northeast Kingdom town – is attending mask-free.
The school has the right to make the rules,” Jensen said.
“But we’re following the rules,” Desautels said.
“But not exactly,” Jensen said.
Given those options, the couple elected to take their child home that day.
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Earlier in the day, Castle answered Vermont Daily Chronicle questions about school policies on masking.
Chronicle: What are the options for parents who do not want their children to wear masks in school?
Castle: “A parent may obtain an exemption to having their child wear a mask if they have a certified diagnosis from a physician of a medical reason for not wearing a mask or from a physician or mental health provider for a psychological reason. The school would need to review the medical information within a formal IEP or 504 process to determine if the accommodation is necessary to ensure the child is able to access their education.”
Chronicle: Please describe the reasoning behind removing a child from school for not wearing a mask.
Castle: “Schools that have established a mask requirement are doing so to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 in the interest of public health for students and staff. Allowing staff or students without a legitimate exemption to not wear a mask would result in many individuals opting out and thus increasing the risk of transmission. A student’s non-compliance with a mask requirement is considered unsafe and in violation of school procedures.”