Public scuffle at Eastern Carver County School Board meeting, district calls it ‘unacceptable’

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A minor physical altercation happened at a Minnesota school board meeting Monday night.

The incident happened at an Eastern Carver County School Board meeting, with the topic of a mask mandate being on the table. However, the altercation broke out possibly because of other reasons.

Several people spoke about the district’s mask policy that has just changed due to COVID cases "rising steadily over the past several weeks," according to the district. It mandates masks for pre-Kindergarten through sixth-graders through the month of October, and through Oct. 15 for seventh through 12th-graders, regardless of vaccination status.

After one man spoke in favor of masks, a video shows an unmasked man roll his chair over and tell him he just lied to the school board.

"You guys, let’s continue to try to be respectful, we are all parents, we all have kids," someone on the board then said.

About eight minutes later, as a high school student is speaking about her desire to not wear masks, the man in the mask takes a picture. It’s not clear if it was of the student or the man in the black t-shirt who had just confronted him but it only took seconds to get out of control.

Police broke up the two, escorting one man out.

"We wouldn’t allow our students to behave in our schools the way we are seeing some adults behave at school board meetings," said Dr. Katie Pekel, principal in residence with the University of Minnesota.

She says the Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) has estimated between 60 and 70 school board members have resigned their positions in the year and a half, some abruptly. Pekel says that’s unusual.

"I worry that we won’t be getting those quality applicants because they just won’t want to be the target of what’s happening at board meetings," Pekel said.

Residents voicing concerns about items not even on the agenda is something Pekel says school administrators are trying to navigate.

"What superintendents are discussing is what are some technical ways that we can get our arms around this, will we continue to have public comment, will we continue to broadcast that public comment," Pekel shared.

"Please, I again say, civility, for all those watching, for all those here, we are one community," a school board member can be heard saying just after the outburst at the board meeting Monday night.

Eastern Carver County Schools calls the behavior unacceptable and is now increasing police presence at meetings as a safety precaution.

The district recently updated its mask policy because Carver County’s 14-day case rate per 10,000 people is 50.38, which is above the district’s threshold to increase masking requirements for all students, regardless of vaccination status.

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