PLAISTOW — A Sunday school teacher was arrested at Thursday night’s Timberlane Regional School Board meeting moments after she and several other unmasked attendees showed up to demand an end to a school mask mandate.
The meeting was planned to be held in person at the district’s Performing Arts Center, but board Chairwoman Kimberly Farah quickly shut it down before it began and required that it be held remotely.
“I didn’t want to jeopardize the health of the staff and the students,” Farah said as several Plaistow police officers and state police troopers swarmed inside and outside the auditorium.
The abrupt end to the 7 p.m. in-person meeting happened shortly after Atkinson resident Jackie Wydola watched as police arrested her mother, Kate Bossi, when they entered the building without masks as required by school policy.
“You are violating my rights right now. You are remiss,” Bossi told Sgt. Alec Porter as she was being arrested.
“Come on Sgt. Porter, you know this is wrong what they’re doing to our kids,” one man shouted during the arrest.
“Are you seriously doing this you guys. This is law enforcement. You’re not enforcing laws, you’re enforcing policy. That doesn’t matter,” Wydola told officers.
Wydola said that before the arrest her mother “didn’t really have any interaction with the officer. She just walked into the building, and when they realized that she had come into the auditorium they followed her in here.”
She said her mother was the first unmasked person to walk into the building.
Porter declined to comment on the reason for the arrest at the scene, but Wydola, who identified Bossi, said she was told that her mother was arrested for disorderly conduct.
Bonnie Bowley of Danville, who also showed up at the meeting without a mask with her children, said her family has a “medical exemption.”
She said Bossi is the Sunday school teacher for her children, who were crying after watching the arrest.
“We have every right to be here. I get it’s scary, but that should not dictate our right to be here,” she said, adding that she wouldn’t have brought her children if she thought they would “face that kind of aggression.”
“I came here pretty calm and now I’m trying to calm down,” she said.
Farah’s decision to hold the meeting remotely angered several of those who came to speak on the mask issue.
When asked if she felt threatened after the in-person meeting ended, Farah responded, “No, I was in the Army. I do not. I’m quite confident in the fact that I’ve got backups here.”
Farah also serves on the Danville Board of Selectmen and was one of three selectmen who walked out of Monday’s board meeting because a maskless crowd showed up and violated a board policy requiring masks in town buildings.
Some of the residents who wore masks also expressed frustration with the unmasked, saying they had ruined the meeting for others in attendance.
School board member Shawn O’Neil, who is also chairman of the Danville Board of Selectmen and had refused to wear a mask at Monday’s selectmen’s meeting, had planned to propose that the school board drop its policy requiring masks in school.
“Kids are going to be going to the prom in two days. It would be nice to have them be able to enjoy it without a mask. You know? They all got screwed last year,” he said.
When the meeting later resumed remotely, O’Neil did make a motion to end the school mask mandate, but it failed because it didn’t get a second.
Interim Plaistow Police Chief Jason Mazza couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday.