BILLINGS, Mont. - A parent at Boulder Elementary School shared a video of his children being denied entry in the school building over refusal to wear face masks Monday.
In the video, Boulder Elementary Principal Mark Venner, told parent Abraham Engholm all staff and students are required to wear masks in order to enter the school building due to the mask mandate that was put into place at Billings Public Schools on Sunday, Aug. 22.
Engholm cited HB-501 saying it allows them entry into the building without a mask; however, HB-501 does not apply in this case. The bill only states, failure to wear a face covering or carry proof of vaccination may not be considered in the crime of criminal trespass.
Engholm claimed his children are being denied a service of public education. Venner said they are denied access into the school if they are not wearing a mask and that the school offers masks for staff and students to wear. In addition, he mentions the option for students to participate in remote learning if they decide to not wear a mask or for a safety reason.
"So, we're segregating people who don't wear masks in Boulder Elementary?" Engholm asked.
"I don't know about the segregation, I just know that's an offer," Venner said.
The video ended with Venner letting Engholm know that he is available to answer any questions, but in order to enter the building, masks are required.
We spoke with Engholm and several other parents whose children were not allowed in the school today.
“I have four children here who were denied access to two different schools, one goes to Ben Steele and the other three go here to Boulder Elementary," says Engholm.
“Our kids are home today as a result of not being allowed in the building for not wearing a mask," says Luke Hudson.
The parents we spoke with say their children were excited to go back to school and were upset when they were told they wouldn't be allowed in.
“My kids want to be in school and my kids need to be in school and we believe that they should be there and they are very upset that they’re not in school today. It’s a very emotional topic in my household as it is across the city," says Hudson.
In the video you can hear Principal Venner offer remote learning to students wishing to not wear a mask, but one parents says they tried it last year and says it doesn't compare to in person learning.
The parents tell us, all they're asking for is to have the right to choose for their children.
“Let me be clear, COVID-19 is a very real disease, it affects a lot of people and we empathizes with those who have been affected by this disease and we know people who have lost loves one and we understand that," says Hudson.
“I really enjoy a lot of the people in my life that have come down with a different opinion on this. I like them, our kids are friends and I don’t want this to be something that further divides our community. I advocate for teachers to have the choice, parents to have the choice, children to have the choice and that is the win-win for everybody," says Leah Frederick.
We have reach out to Principal Venner and Superintendent Greg Upham, but have not yet received comment.