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Upstate school district dismisses students early ahead of protests

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Upstate school district dismisses students early ahead of protests

WAYNE COUNTY, N.Y (WROC) — Students in the Gananda Central School District were sent home early Wednesday after reports that protesters were going to gather outside campuses. Demonstrators showed support for Eli, a student with special needs who police say was involved in a physical confrontation wearing a mask at the bus stop.

That child’s mother, Laine Mulye is accused of fighting with the district employee last Friday and has been charged with harassment in the second degree and endangering the welfare of a child. According to Macedon Police, she assaulted a bus monitor after an intense argument over her son trying to board the bus without a mask despite district policy. Mulye allegedly encouraged her son to punch the bus monitor during the altercation. 

In an email sent home to parents, the district emphasized this was not an emergency situation but out of an abundance of caution wanted kids to leave early while not letting walkers go home themselves. Instead of having their parents pick them up if they didn’t want to ride a bus.

The protest went on peacefully from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. across the street from Richard Mann Elementary School, and was put on by the Wayne County Chapter of Moms For Liberty. About a dozen activists showed up demanding better training for staff on working with kids who have special needs.

“We’d like to see the bus monitor’s credentials. We want to see her training?“ said Summer O’Brien, whose son has special needs. “Is she trained with special needs kids, and when or how? Is the transportation department aware of the special needs Eli? He is why we’re here today.”

“We have a 10-year-old child who’s being harmed by all these people running around screaming obscenities to people trying to stand up for a special needs child,” another protestor said.

Behind the slogan “We Stand With Eli,” the group of parents pointed out that the New York State Department of Education has mask exemptions for students with certain physical and medical conditions. They argued that this policy wasn’t communicated to employees.

“These aids need to know how to handle these children and how to deal with special needs children,” argued Jennifer Williams, Chair of Wayne County Chapter of Moms for Liberty. “The bus driver as well. If there are policies about these kids not having to wear masks, just communicate.”  

While others in the community have come out in support of the transportation staff member, protesters who stand with Eli accuse the school district of hurting him. “This child hasn’t been able to go to school all week because of the lack of transportation the schools, by law, are supposed to provide,” O’Brien said. “Now he’s even more stressed, concerned, and upset.” 

All athletic practices and games in the district were canceled by the district as well due to this gathering. Leaders of the protest plan to take their demands to the next school board meeting, and insist that their rallies will remain peaceful.

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