American Fork residents face charges over disrupted Granite School Board meeting
Two American Fork residents are among the 11 people who were charged last week for allegedly interrupting a Granite School Board meeting in May in opposition to Utah’s statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools.
Kaleb Jeremiah Pierce, 45, and Sara Lea McArthur, 34, both of American Fork, were charged in South Salt Lake Justice Court with disrupting a meeting, a class B misdemeanor. Also charged were: West Valley City residents Scott Randall Sherner, Debora Noriko Arai and Jeremy Kawaik Dunyon; Salt Lake City residents Sophia Anderson and Angela Kay Van Leeuwen; Taylorsville residents Ted Michael Tyler and Bernadette Ethel Brockman; Holladay resident Andrea May Jorgensen; and West Jordan resident Kasey Ray Wilson.
Charging documents, filed on June 28, state that the defendants “did obstruct, or interfere with a meeting, procession, or gathering by physical action, verbal utterance, or any other means, and with the intent to disrupt the lawful meeting, procession, or gathering.”
The charges stem from a Granite School District board meeting on May 4 that was packed with parents and residents there to protest the statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools, which state officials implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
One woman opposed to the mandate told the board that she believed masks “have deprived the youngest children of social contact and experiences essential for increasing vocabulary” and urged the education officials to end the mask requirement for the final week of the school year.
“One size does not fit all, and adults who have higher risk should not project their fears or expect the youth to carry the burden of those fears,” the woman said as other attendees cheered and roared.
It didn’t take long for the citizen comment portion of the meeting to devolve into a yelling match filled with boos, screams and chants of “No more masks!”
“It’s child abuse!” one woman yelled. “Stop being afraid!” a man shouted.
About 44 minutes into the meeting, board member Terry Bawden motioned to adjourn because the board “could not proceed with the rest of the agenda,” according to minutes of the meeting. The board passed the motion unanimously.
Ben Horsley, spokesperson for the Granite School District, which serves central Salt Lake County, confirmed to the Daily Herald on Wednesday that the 11 people had been charged and said “a 12th suspect has not been identified and police are seeking information as to their identity.”
“Because many of the individuals were not associated with the district as patrons or residents, there was an extended amount of time needed to identify the perpetrators as part of this investigation,” Horsley said in a written statement.
The school district spokesperson noted that “there was a police presence at the meeting” but added that “the decision was made in advance to be non-confrontational unless the situation became violent.”
“Regardless, there are repercussions for these actions and the board was unable to conduct its business as a result of these disruptive criminal actions,” he said. “The board and district encourage civil discourse as we model appropriate behavior for our children and students.”
Horsley said the school board will not be providing any additional comment at this time.