A Laramie teenager who was arrested last week because she failed to wear a mask in school appeared on “Fox and Friends” with her father this week to discuss the arrest which has now received global attention.
Grace Smith, 16, who was joined on the interview with her father, Andy, told the Fox News host she would defy the mask mandate again if she went to school, but that isn’t likely because it was no longer a safe environment.
“There have been threats to my family, and there was a threat of a school shooting last week,” she said. “So, I won’t be returning anytime super soon.”
Grace was arrested Oct. 7 at Laramie High School because she refused to leave after being suspended for not following the mandatory mask policy. The officer told her she was trespassing.
“I believe that every right that you feel is being infringed upon is worth fighting for,” Grace said. “My dad and I have closed off every meeting with a quote of Benjamin Franklin’s, ‘Those who sacrifice a little bit of liberty for a little bit of safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.’”
Grace went into custody willingly and was polite with officers when arrested, videos taken and shared by her father show.
“I’m just so stinking proud of this girl for standing up for herself,” Andy Smith said. “It’s not just her, she’s doing it for the civil liberties of every individual.”
The school district implemented a mask mandate in early September after Albany County and Wyoming’s COVID cases continued to climb, as well as its hospitalizations. The mandate was extended this week by the Albany County School District #1 Board of Education through Nov. 12.
Andy Smith told Cowboy State Politics that initially when the mandate was implemented in September, the school district was going to allow exemption forms, but Superintendent Jubal Yennie ultimately revoked them and only allowed exemptions under eight criteria, none of which Grace met.
“Wyoming’s Grace standing strong for all eyes of this country to see,” Carbon County Republican Party Chairman Joey Correnti IV wrote on social media following the Smiths’ appearance on Fox. “Well done, young lady, your strength and courage is an inspiration to so many across this state and nation!”
Smith’s arrest came on the day she had returned to school following two other two-day suspensions for not wearing a face mask. She also has been ticketed twice by the Laramie Police Department for trespassing, each carrying a fine of $500.
During a Wednesday school board meeting held over Zoom, Smith spoke about her struggles with the school over the mandate. She said that she’s been threatened and bullied over her stand.
“I have been put in serious danger,” she said. “I have been bullied, discriminated against and, worse of all, legitimately threatened. What about the rest of the students without masks? Why did you target me?
“Since the lockdown and my arrest, I have not been able to safely return to the school.”
Smith also said she doesn’t plan to go back anytime soon.
“Due to the absurdity of the whole ordeal ... consider this as my official withdrawal from Laramie High School,” she said.
Because of the highly charged emotional debates masking in schools has generated so far, Yennie also made a plea this week for civility in a letter to the community.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has damaged our compassion for one another,” he began. “It, like so many things in recent years, has divided us. We most certainly have one thing in common, however. We want this pandemic to be over with as little loss of life as possible.”
He called the state of the debate in Laramie a “no-win situation” with half the people unhappy all the time.
“While disagreements about our educational system can be constructive, we’ve found that this pandemic has brought out the very worst in us,” Yennie said.