Mike Gehl, a member of the Missoula County Public Schools Board of Trustees, spoke to KGVO News on Friday and related what happened at a recent MCPS Trustees meeting that was closed down because he refused to wear a mask.

“We've had multiple in person meetings, and I've never worn a mask at any of them,” Gehl began. “I've been asked to wear them at previous meetings and I politely said no, just as politely as I responded the other night, and the whole thing was orchestrated completely in response to how I came out in support of (OPI Superintendent) Elsie Arntzen over our current superintendent and his ‘poison pen’ letter, and it was set up and organized by the chair and it was poorly executed on her part.”

Gehl recalled the details.

“I've never worn the mask in a meeting, she asked me to wear a mask and I said, No, I don't need one,” he said. “You have years and we’re more than sufficient to keep right on going, and she reminded me of board policy. And I'm like, that's nice. But state law supersedes board policy and the law says I don't have to wear one. I'm given that choice. Grace Decker made a little comment and my fellow trustee and my other fellow trustee made a similar comment and said she was scared to be in the same room with me even though she was sitting some 30 feet away from me. So I'm sorry if that's your attitude about it. Then, Diane closed the meeting at that point.”

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Gael explained his stance on mandatory masking.

“I'm not anti mask, I am pro choice,” he said. “I think this is a free country. We want to get back to normal and getting rid of those masks is one step to doing that. If you feel comfortable walking around in town or in your car, or wherever you happen to be with a mask on, then I say more power to you, you should you have that right to do so. But at the same time you need to respect the rights of those that say ‘you know what? I'm quite capable of making up my own mind and deciding whether to or where not to wear a mask’.”

Gehl said he believes the masking decision should be left up to the parents, not the school administration.

“This is a health decision that should be left up to the parents to make their own decision on what they need to do,” he said. “There's just as much data out there that these things (masks) are causing depression and many other different things that are happening in a negative fashion that are running rampant in the schools right now. It's one of the one of these things asking ‘Is the mask worse than the cure’?

Gehl said some fellow members have made it clear that they want him off the board altogether.

“If you've watched the two and a half minute meeting, I think the chairman Diane (Lorenzen) made it very clear that they have no intention of having in person meetings again until I am ‘off the board’ is exactly how she put it. So all I can say is, I'm not going anywhere. I'm not resigning because of this. I'm not changing my attitude. I'm continuing on, and I am running for election as well. So it'll be ultimately up to the voters to make that decision.”

The MCPS Board of Trustees last met virtually via ZOOM.


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