A member of the Emporia Board of Education allegedly attempted to have a member of the public arrested after disagreements over her votes on school mask policies.
The issue exploded after the February 23 board meeting in which the COVID committee, appointed to make recommendations to the BOE, updated their guidance to optional masking effective immediately. After much discussion, a vote to lift the universal mask mandate immediately failed 3-4. A second motion to move to optional masking on March 28 passed 7-0.
Local resident Koety Williams was incensed and went to Facebook finding photos of the four board members who voted against immediately lifting the mask mandate and their families unmasked.
Williams wrote a post in a private group called “Unmask USD 253” sharing how upset she was and adding the photos she’d found on the public-facing side of the members’ Facebook pages. She also emailed the photos and content of the post to the board members who had voted against unmasking.
Five days later, a few hours before the board would convene a special meeting to consider the mask mandate — and voting to lift it effective immediately — the police came to Williams’ place of employment having apparently been called by Board Member Jami Reever.
“The police showing up at my work was … to me, it felt like an intimidation type of thing,” she said.
According to Williams, she was told by the responding officer that Reever claimed she was in fear for her children’s safety.
Shortly after the call to law enforcement, Reever stated in an email exchange from her official USD 253 email address, that, “After consulting with an attorney, I must inform you that you do not have my permission to take, post on social media, or distribute pictures of my children.”
That email was time-stamped 8:43 a.m. Williams responded approximately an hour later noting that the images were all on the public section of Reever’s Facebook page — which was all Williams could see, given they are not “friends” on Facebook — and that she would be willing to discuss the matter with Reever’s attorney, noting correctly there is no reasonable expectation of privacy when photos and other content are publicly posted on the internet.
“I’m happy to speak with your attorney if you’d like, and I can explain how I obtained the images myself when I am not a friend of yours on Facebook,” the email read.
“I spoke with the police officer you sent as well, and they said the same thing; there’s nothing that you can do because you posted them and I publicly accessed them. Also, I didn’t give your kid’s names or give any identifying information that wasn’t shared by yourself.”
The Sentinel reached out to the Emporia police department and confirmed that an officer was, indeed dispatched after a complaint on February 28, however, no report was filed because no crime had been committed.
The Sentinel reached out to another parent who had also sent Reever an email — and also allegedly received a visit from law enforcement — but she declined to be interviewed for this story.
Reever did not directly address the incident in her emailed response to The Sentinel.
“As you know, the Emporia School Board approved a mask-optional policy on February 28,” she wrote. “I am looking forward to looking towards the future and ensuring that our district continues to provide our students with the best educational opportunities we possibly can.”
Months of frustration
The Facebook post and email chain were the results of months of frustration by Williams, who had ultimately pulled her children out of the Emporia district and sent them to a private Christian school precisely because of the mask mandates.
“I’ve been expressing my opinions since COVID hit,” she said. “In the 2020-21 school year, my seventh grader would have only been in school two days a month because of how they were doing their hybrid [schooling].
“I wasn’t comfortable with that, and I switched my kids to the Christian school.”
Williams said she continued to pay attention to what was going on, however, in hopes of returning her children to the Emporia school district.
“When the 2021-22 school year came up, I wasn’t sure where my oldest was going to go,” she said. “But they were still doing mandatory maks. They actually said right before the school year started that kids 12 and up can be optional because they can get the vaccine. But then a week before school started they changed it to universal for all buildings, and all people regardless of activities. So that was out the window, and I put my daughter back to the Christian school.”
Williams said the bottom line for her was hypocrisy.
“Look, you guys are telling everybody it’s not safe,” she said “The message you’re sending is your kids are above all this, whereas everybody else is you know (spreading) disease and is gonna kill everybody. So why are you voting this way?
“If you’re living this way, that’s not fair. You’re making choices that you’re not allowing other people to make.