Correcting video duration on second paragraph, adding link on third paragraph
A widely shared video showing an apparent vote to “elect” a new school district board in Vail, Arizona, and to eliminate mask mandates in schools has caused confusion on social media. The claim made online that the parents elected themselves to their local school board to overturn mask mandates is untrue. While a planned meeting to discuss face-covering guidance on April 27 was canceled in response to protesters’ disruption, the “vote” conducted by protesters was not official and therefore not legitimate, according to a spokeswoman of the Vail unified school district.
Most iterations feature a 2:20 minute video ( here , here , here ) extracted from an hour-and-a-half Facebook live by a user who identifies themselves as StevenTyler Daniels and describes himself as a chairman at the Patriot Party of Arizona on his social media profile here .
A longer version ( here ) shows a crowd of protesters who are mostly unmasked. Some are holding “anti-masks” signs. “So, agenda, new board members, how many do we need?” a male voice can be heard asking at the beginning of the clip. “I hear they’ve all resigned,” he later says. Protesters then conducted a “vote” and selected five individuals to be the “new board members” who subsequently presented and voted in favor of a “motion” that declared that “the entire Vail school district will be free of mask policy” (see around timestamp 4:10 here).
A video by the Arizona Daily Star captures the same moment from another angle here (around timestamp 1:19).
The scene prompted social media posts that mistakenly echoed the claim that the school board members had “quit” in response to the demonstration and those protestors had validly elected a new board here , here . In a tweet here , Tim Swain, a U.S. Senate candidate from South Carolina, alleged parents “took over the school board - all according to the rules”. Screengrabs of this tweet have been shared on Facebook at least 2,100 times ( here , here , here )
At least a hundred protesters rallied at Vail Education Center on April 27, as reported by local media here and here to make the school’s district board lift the mask mandate. Officials eventually decided to cancel their planned meeting before it began, according to KVOA here .
Days earlier, Arizona Governor Doug Dacey announced it would be up to school districts to decide whether to require face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 ( here ) .
Darcy Mentone, Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Vail Unified School District, confirmed to Reuters that the vote shown in the video is not official and dismissed the claim that the legally-elected governing board had quit their roles.
The current board has “not resigned and can only be removed through an official recall election”, she clarified in an emailed statement. Mentone further explained that the election of board members must be done through an official and legal election process as with any other process for electing officials.
If a new board or member were to be validly recalled, a resident must apply for a “recall petition and collect signatures” of at least 25% of eligible voters, she said. If this signature requirement is met, the recall question “can be voted on in the next general election”.
School board elections are part of the general election, the Arizona School Boards Association states here . Special elections can be called during the term to fill “unanticipated vacancies”.
As for the mask mandate in Vail’s school district, it “is still in place” and can only be overturned by the legally-elected governing board, Mentone concluded. According to local outlet KVOA, district leaders planned to send parents a letter to reiterate this ( here ).
Newsweek reported on the failed school district “coup” here .
False. Protesters did rally against a mask mandates outside the site where an Arizona school district’s board was going to hold a meeting, but the vote they conducted on video was not official or legal, according to a spokeswoman for the school district.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.