BRIDGMAN — One recall petition was withdrawn and two were denied Friday against three Bridgman school board trustees during the Berrien County Election Commission clarity hearing Friday, May 6.
The three nearly identical petitions were filed two weeks earlier by Michelle Staneart-Gast of Bridgman against board President Eric Ramso and Trustees Nancy Hawley and Wayne Hall.
The petitions were concerning the district’s requirement that students and staff wear face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The mask order was lifted on Feb. 16 by Bridgman Superintendent Shane Peters.
The petition against Hawley was withdrawn. No reason was given.
Alex Ott, who was representing Staneart-Gast, said Ramso and Hall were negligent in granting Peters emergency powers to decide if students and staff should wear masks.
“By doing so, (they) took (away) the ability of the parents to make a decision on if their child should or should not wear a mask,” he said.
The petitions cited Michigan law, stating “It is the natural, fundamental right of parents and legal guardians to determine and direct the care, teaching and education of their children. The public schools of this state serve the needs of the pupils by cooperating with the pupil’s parents.”
The petitions didn’t include the part of the quoted law stating the schools and parents were to “develop the pupil’s intellectual capabilities and vocational skills in a safe and positive environment,“ said Ramso, who was also speaking for Hall.
“The petition language isn’t clear and factual because it omits that important part of the statute,” Ramso said.
Ott said he didn’t know why part of the law was omitted. Staneart-Gast was unavailable for comment.
In addition, Ramso said the second part of the petitions talks about Peters’ conduct, but not the board members’ conduct.
That part states that Peters issued the mask order on Nov. 14 and the 10 exemptions didn’t include “an explicit exemption for a parent to exclude their child(ren) from the order.”
Berrien County Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli, who was sitting in for Judge Mabel Mayfield, said recall petitions must include an action that was taken by the person being recalled.
He said it’s not clear what actions Ramso took and how those actions relate to Peters’ actions.
County Clerk Sharon Tyler, a commission member, said she had a problem with the word “explicit.”
“‘Explicit’ is somebody’s feelings, an opinion,” she said.