Tuolumne County students, parents protesting and sending COVID-19 vaccines and masks | News

  Tuolumne County students, parents protesting and sending COVID-19 vaccines and masks |  News

Many parents kept their students home from school Monday to take part in the planned statewide protest.

In downtown Sonora, students Sam King, 14, Piper Bryan, 16, Madison Bramblett, 16, and Colten Anderson, 14, came from Sonora High to display their signs and share their feeling about the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for schools.

“And we want freedom of speech, too,” Bryan said.

“I want my school to hear this, and my community too,” Bramblett said on South Green Street before 11 a.m. “They’re trying to force us to get the vaccine to attend school. But that’s our choice. It’s our bodies, our choice.”

Story Highlights

  • Some students walked to downtown Sonora to make sure they were seen and heard. A group of parents and grandparents went to Courthouse Square. And some students gathered in the stands at Dunlavy Field at Sonora High. 

  • Several school districts that could be reached Monday afternoon reported higher than average absences for the day, ranging from slightly under to slightly over about one-third of their respective student populations.

King added, “We have permission from our parents. We know they have something set up at campus for flex period. But only people at school will see that. So we’re off campus now so people in the community can see we’re protesting.”

On campus at Sonora High School, 16-year-old senior Om Patel said he heard “the protest is don’t come to school.” He said he forgot about it and was leaving campus at his normal release time. 

Patel said he did not want to say whether he supports or opposes mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for students. Back at Courthouse Square, parent Corey Watson came with her daughter, Claire, 6, both of Sonora, and held a hand-drawn sign stating “No Forced Vax We Are Not Lab Rats” while some motorists on Washington Street honked in support.

Corey Watson said she is the parent of two other children who go to Soulsbyville Elementary School, and she is now homeschooling Claire because she does not believe in forced vaccines and masks that are recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. She said she opposes COVID-19 vaccines and masks in part because she believes masks can make people sick. “I just want the truth,” Claire’s grandmother, Kathleen Wolf, also a resident of Sonora, said at Courthouse Square. “The forced mandate for vaccines is against our constitutional rights. I have 14 grandchildren, 10 in Tuolumne County.”

Kim Scheu, of Groveland, protested on Washington Street across from Courthouse Square. Scheu said she wants parents to have a choice on whether their children must be vaccinated or not. Ed Pelfrey, superintendent of the Sonora Union High School District, said just before noon on the Sonora High campus that students would be allowed to gather in the stands at Dunlavy Field during their flex hour and the following lunch period. 

Pelfrey requested news media remain across the football field from the stands, where fewer than three dozen students congregated among otherwise empty rows and rows of bleachers.  No students used a microphone or any other public address system during the flex period. The students walked away from the field at the end of their flex period, accompanied by their principal, Karen Sells. No students took to the bleachers during the following lunch period, which ended about 1:15 p.m.

“We’re trying to be respectful of the diversity of opinions,” he said. Pelfrey said the school would provide a microphone so students on the field could amplify what they want to say.