Against the mandate: Students participate in anti-mask walkout


Photos and brief by Aditi Dahagam, Co-T/E Life Editor and Ben Shapiro, Co-Copy Editor

Broadcast package by Zach Rejoinis, Staff Reporter and Reese Wang, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Updated on Feb. 14, 2022 at 6:55 p.m.

Update as of Feb. 11, 2022 at 2:51 p.m.

Chants of “U.S.A!” and “freedom!” filled the atrium and hallways at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 11. Hundreds of students gathered to protest Conestoga’s mask mandate and walked out to display their opinions. Those not affiliated with the dissenting group watched from the steps of the atrium, some booing and recording on their phones as students walked out. Word of the planned walkout spread in the morning via social media, predominantly through reposted Snapchat stories. 

Students began filing into the atrium roughly ten minutes before walkout participants began shouting, and by 12:35 p.m., a crowd of students started walking toward the main entrance, banging on lockers, slamming doors and yelling.

The Spoke is unaware if students who left school early will face disciplinary consequences and will continue to update the story as it unfolds.

Update as of Feb. 13, 2022 at 4:27 p.m.

After analyzing video footage of Friday’s events, The Spoke has determined that approximately 50 students participated in the walkout and left school grounds. More than 50 students gathered in the atrium in support of the anti-mask group; although, not all participated in the walking out. 

There were more than 100 students in the atrium during Friday’s events, with a majority of people spectating rather than participating. The Spoke cannot be sure of the exact number of students participating in, supporting and opposing the walkout; however, our estimates are backed up by photo and video footage. 

Superintendent of Schools Richard Gusick and Conestoga principal Amy Meisinger released a statement on Friday night saying that they are “in the process of investigating and will follow up with involved students next week. When students return to school on Monday, please be reminded that all school rules remain in effect. Masking remains a requirement while indoors.”

In response to the anti-mask walkout, “pro-mask and pro-science students of Conestoga” are hosting a sit-in in the atrium on Monday, Feb. 14 from 12:25 p.m. to 12:55 p.m. to “show solidarity and respect to those who passed from COVID.” 

The Spoke will document and cover Monday’s sit-in. All official content from The Spoke will be released strictly on our Instagram, YouTube and website

Updated on Feb. 13, 2022 at 9:06 p.m.

As of a T/E all-call this evening, Conestoga High School will hold a virtual instructional day tomorrow, Feb. 14, 2022. The update on the district website points to “messages we have received directly and information shared on social media” as the cause for the switch to virtual instruction. The message followed in saying “We have seen threatening statements directed toward other students, including racist and homophobic slurs and insults. We are working in cooperation with the police on these reports.”

The Spoke will continue to follow the situation and keep The Spoke’s audience informed. The Spoke will continue to document and report on any student action when the student body returns to in-person school on Tuesday.

Update as of Feb. 14, 2022 at 6:55 p.m.

After working with local police on Feb. 13 and 14, according to a district-wide announcement, Superintendent of Schools Richard Gusick and Conestoga principal Amy Meisinger claim to have resolved all “potential threats” to the school. Allowing staff the opportunity to “prepare additional support for students,” Conestoga will follow a 2-hour-delay schedule on Tuesday, Feb. 15.  

In response to any further student action regarding the mask mandate, the district’s announcement furthered to ask that students not gather during the school day in attempts to maintain “a period of calm.” If students wish to voice their opinions, the district asks that they reach out to administration and participate in listening sessions with administrators and school board members.

The district announcement additionally made it clear that Conestoga will see an increased police presence for the remainder of the week to ensure student safety. TESD’s mask mandate remains in effect, and students will not be allowed to attend in-person school without a mask.

The Spoke is still unaware to what extent students who left school early on Friday will face disciplinary consequences, but will continue to update the story in the coming days. The Spoke is aware of the increased media coverage of these events and would like to make it clear that our coverage is in accordance with the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.

Check out some photos and a video package from the walkout below.

anti-mask walkout 2/11

Aditi Dahagam can be reached at [email protected]

Ben Shapiro can be reached at [email protected]