When an Arizona school employee called a parent on Thursday to share that his son had come in close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, the dad was told his son must stay at home for at least a week.
Instead, later that morning, the man walked into Mesquite Elementary School with his son and two other men carrying zip ties before confronting the principal over the school’s quarantine policy, Vail Unified School District Superintendent John Carruth told The Washington Post.
In a meeting with the principal, Carruth said, the men threatened to call local authorities and conduct a “citizen’s arrest” if the student was not allowed to rejoin school activities immediately. That is when the principal, who explained that the school was following guidance issued by the local health department, ordered the trio to leave, Carruth said.
“Today was a tough day,” he told The Post. “One of the most powerful tools as adults is the behavior that we model to young people — and the behavior that was modeled today makes me really sad.”
A spokesperson with the Tucson Police Department confirmed that officers responded to the incident. Police did not identify the three men and did not say whether any charges had been brought against the trio.
Diane Vargo, the principal of the elementary school, which has more than 600 students, did not immediately respond to a message from The Post late Thursday.
One of the men who accompanied the dad to the school recorded part of the incident and posted the video to Instagram. When contacted for comment early Friday, he said he was not immediately available for an interview and referred The Post to another social media video where he and the student’s father discussed the incident.
The event at the southern Arizona school marks yet another incident of parents protesting covid-19 mandates as schools reopen and cases tied to the highly transmissible delta variant surge. Some have launched verbal assaults at teachers, while others have turned physical against both teachers and students.
Last month, one parent in Texas ripped a teacher’s mask off her face. Other parents in that same district yelled at a teacher wearing a mask because they claimed it made it hard to understand what she was saying. That same month, a father in Florida was charged with assaulting a student who confronted him about not wearing a mask.
Earlier on Thursday in Arizona, Mesquite Elementary School had contacted the father to let him know that his son and at least six other schoolmates had been exposed to someone infected with the virus, Carruth told The Post.
The district’s policy is based on guidance issued by the Pima County Health Department that says all children must stay at home for at least seven days after potential exposure at school, the superintendent said. Students are allowed to return to school grounds if a coronavirus test taken five or more days into quarantine comes back negative and they have no symptoms for seven days. According to the district’s dashboard, the school has one active positive covid case.
Moments after receiving the news, the dad took to his social media to protest the school’s quarantine policy, Carruth said. One of the two men who later accompanied the dad to the school posted on Instagram about the situation.
“Apparently Mesquite Elementary thinks they can break the law and act like the covid Gestapo,” the man wrote, referencing Nazi Germany’s secret police. “We will be headed over there shortly to disagree. Come join us because we won’t have this in OUR community!”
Later that morning, the father and his son arrived at the school. The other two men met them in the school’s parking lot, Carruth said.
In a live video posted to Instagram, one of the two men who joined the dad told his followers that they were about to “confront this administration” for “breaking the law.”
“If necessary, we’ll do a citizen’s arrest,” the man said before showing off the “law enforcement zip ties” they brought.
Inside the principal’s office, the men confronted the administrator, arguing that quarantining “children that aren’t sick” breaks state law. No one in the video was wearing masks. The school district does not require them.
“If you insist on this, I’ll have you arrested,” one man said. “We’re ready to make a citizen’s arrest if necessary.”
“There will be no arrests here occurring on the Mesquite campus,” the principal said, adding that the school was following covid protocols.
“We’ll see about that,” the man responded.
“We don’t answer to you,” the student’s dad added. “ … My son will not be quarantined. My son will go back.”
“He needs to be quarantined,” the principal said, before asking the men to leave her office. When the men refused, the principal walked out and called the police, Carruth said.
No arrests were made on school grounds because the men left before police arrived, the superintendent said.
“Showing up to a school with zip ties is not a way to solve a problem,” Carruth said. “ … We welcome people with varying backgrounds and opinions, but we’ve got to come together. This is not okay.”