NEWPORT — About 30 Nokomis Regional Middle School students and parents stormed the vestibule of the school Friday in protest of the school’s mask mandate, turning what was promised to be a peaceful event into one that turned tumultuous.

The protest, which resulted in no suspensions, discipline or arrests, followed an incident Thursday when a handful of students came to school unmasked, saying that they had had enough of wearing masks, according to Regional School Unit 19 Superintendent Michael Hammer.

Police were on hand both days but did not have interactions with students or parents, Hammer said Friday.

The RSU 19 board of directors last August gave Hammer the authority to institute a mask mandate and he imposed one while following recommendations of the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, he said. The 19-member school board is split on whether to require masks in schools, he said.

Students said they planned to hold a peaceful protest Friday outside the school but in the last 10 minutes before students were to enter the school, the group of students and parents pushed their way into the vestibule, Hammer said. School staff tried to stop them, as none were masked. Parents started saying the staff were denying their children an education, according to Hammer.

He understands people are tired of the mandate, but they should not “come barging through the door refusing to wear a mask.”


Students and parents entered the gymnasium where Hammer spoke to them and some parents went back outside, he said. Some students went home with parents and others were asked to call parents to take them home but were not able to make connections.

The middle school and Nokomis Regional High, which have about 600 students each, are connected via a library and cafeteria and some high school students joined the gathering, according to Hammer.

He said police happened to be at the school Thursday on an unrelated matter and stayed during that protest. They returned on Friday.

“Police never interacted with a kid or parent in a disciplined way, or any way,” he said.

Hammer said he plans to work on a statement saying that when the school resumes after vacation, which is next week, he will look at where virus cases stand and try to come up with a mask mandate exit strategy. He said he plans to recommend to the board that such a strategy be developed with the hope that coronavirus cases continue to trend downward and there is a move to make masks a choice.

“I’ve got to try to communicate that plan as soon as possible with enough support to prevent this from happening again,” he said.


He said some people think the mask requirement is a move by him to assert power, but he argued that it’s an effort to to try to balance safety with choice.

“It’s a hard balance,” he said “I’m as tired as they are. I hear their frustration.”

Middle school Principal Angela Brown was not taking calls Friday from reporters, according to a woman who answered the phone at her office, and referred questions to Hammer.

A call and email to to Newport police Chief David Wintle on Friday were not immediately returned.

In addition to Newport, RSU 19 includes the towns of Etna, Dixmont, Corinna, Palmyra, Plymouth and St. Albans.

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