Community members from Parkfield to Arroyo Grande were in attendance 

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — On Thursday, Feb. 17, close to 100 community members from all over San Luis Obispo County gathered for a county-wide Unmask Our Children Protest Meeting for parents and kids alike who are asking for mask-choice in the county’s schools. The event was put on by the nonpartisan group, Moms for Liberty and was held at Atascadero Lake Park.

“We had people coming from Parkfield, Shandon, Paso Robles, Templeton, Atascadero, and as far as Arroyo Grande. I’m sure there are more places. Those were the ones I heard,” said Moms for Liberty District Lead, Erin Westmoreland.

Local students who attend our North County schools have been protesting for mask-choice since Tuesday, Feb. 15, when 50 plus students at Paso Robles High School refused to wear masks in class. There were also mask-choice protests at Lewis Middle School on Thursday, Feb. 17, and Templeton High School on Friday, Feb. 18. And both Paso Robles and Atascadero’s Unified School Districts have put mask-choice items on their agendas in their upcoming meetings. See the full story on the PRHS mask protest here.

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PRHS Students in Bearcat Hall during their protest.

“The top tips I would give to people who want to participate [in protests] is to keep it peaceful and respectful. We don’t want to lose our message in the noise. Our message is to give us mask-choice in our schools throughout the whole county. I would also urge parents not to pick up your child if your child wants to stay at school. The school campus is where they are mandating masks and that is where our children have to reveal their smiles,” stated Westmoreland. 

Before the start of the protest meeting, families gathered with hand-made signs to take pictures for a video that will be posted on the Moms for Liberty SLO County website and possibly other venues as well. “I am hoping to make it more of a way to gain more supporters, so we might post it in more places,” continued Westmoreland.

The current State mandate requires that students and adults inside of school grounds are required to wear masks when indoors. However, the existing mandates will be re-evaluated on Monday, Feb. 28. 

James Brescia, the County Superintendent, stated, “The concerns and frustrations of our county have been regularly shared with Sacramento on my weekly calls. Please understand that the indoor mask requirement in the K-12 settings that remains in place at the present time comes from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Our local public health officer, my office, and local school boards are not at liberty to make a less restrictive local order. I anticipate we will have a change within the next few weeks.”

At the Unmask Our Children Protest Meeting, attendees were reminded to keep emailing their local officials and California’s government officials. 

THS Students during their mask choice protest on Feb. 18.

“Our intention is not to hurt our schools. Most of us love the school we are at. We have been at all the board meetings county-wide all year long asking for them to give us mask choice. With other countries and states dropping mask mandates, it is now California’s turn. We are tired of sending our children to school, to a place where they focus more on the masks rather than our children’s education. Let’s get back to learning without hindering the air they breathe,” added Westmoreland.

On Thursday, Feb. 24, at 5:30 p.m., students, teachers, and parents will be protesting near the District Office to unmask Templeton. 

This is a developing story that will be updated when new information is available.