THS student continues to protest for mask choice

TEMPLETON — Templeton residents are preparing to show their support for mask and vaccine choice at the Templeton Unified School District (TUSD) board meeting tonight, Thursday, Feb. 24, at 6 pm.

Parents, students, and teachers are planning to speak at the board meeting, now being held in the Templeton Elementary School (TES) multipurpose room. The fourth item on the agenda following public comment is “Review & Discussion Regarding State Mask and Vaccine Mandates.”

THS Freshman Kiana Keogh

Freshman at Templeton High School (THS), Kiana Keogh, began her fight against the mask mandate on Tuesday, Feb. 15. That same day, students at Paso Robles High School held a mask mandate protest, leading to a mask choice resolution passed by the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD) on Feb. 22. 

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

Keogh is hoping TUSD will be next to follow in PRJUSD’s footsteps, “I realized with Newsom lifting the mask mandate that it was very unfair that others didn’t have to wear a mask in their environment and they had a choice to wear one, but I didn’t have a choice in my work environment.”

On Feb. 15, Keogh was sent home after declining to wear a mask in class and put on an independent contract which allowed her to return to campus at any time. However, that Friday, Feb. 18, Keogh and 35 other students participated in another mask protest. 

Rather than individually going to class without their masks, Keogh and her classmates stood together in the quad until administration moved the students to a table outside the main campus fence. Students were supervised, but Keogh says students and some staff began calling them animals, comparing them to a zoo.

“We thought we would have more support for sure by staff and mainly the students,” said Keogh. “Not seeing any support was disappointing, and having the majority of the crowd turn on us and be disrespectful, especially our peers that we thought were our friends…you saw who was your friend and who was not.”

Some of the protesting students went back to class, and others were picked up by their parents. Keogh and about four other students worked outside in their designated area for the rest of the day. Because Keogh still declines to wear a mask in class, she remains on an independent contract.

“I was not going to give in, and I was not going to wear a mask because I feel that it is unfair, and I feel strongly that it is unnecessary,” said Keogh.

She adds, “I know that there are a lot of people who feel how I feel, just not as strong, and [they] feel like it is what it is, and we can’t make a difference. I want to prove everybody wrong who is saying that ‘oh there’s not a turnout,’…I’ve got on now a third news station, and I’ve made my voice… and myself heard.”

Keogh plans to speak during public comment at tonight’s TUSD school board meeting. Watching the Paso Robles students’ successful protest and mask choice resolution was inspiring for her.

“It was amazing. It was inspiring seeing that we can do this. It’s not that far out of reach because just one town over all of this has happened,” Keogh said. “Because of the students, because of them showing up… and not wearing a mask, and because of them standing up for what they believe in and going to that meeting…standing up for their rights and for the choice to wear a mask or not.”

She adds, “It has shown me that the more people we get on board, we can do this—I encourage everybody to go to the board meeting and do what they can.”

Finally, Keogh asks her peers to support the cause in a way they are most comfortable with, “Support in the way you are comfortable with. If you have sports and you can’t do that, then that’s understandable, then it’s not your spot. I encourage everyone to show up to the board meeting at least there to support others, and if you feel strongly about something, then you have to go for it.”

The TUSD Feb. 24 agenda can be found here and watched live through the included Zoom link.

Paso Robles Press has reached out to THS and the TUSD board president for comment, but we have not received a response.

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