California regulators in San Diego raided three locations of Aspen Leaf Preschool in response to a parent’s complaint that the schools are not following COVID-19 policy. Owner Howard Wu said that regulators questioned children as young as two years old, without their parents’ permission, about mask policy.
The story was first reported by the Voice of San Diego. California Department of Public Health requires all students to wear a mask when not eating or sleeping, and in the case of the preschools, napping. Wu said those activities make up about three hours of the day. Aspen Leaf Preschool was issued a Type A citation by the Community Care Licensing Division of the CDSS. The citation means that the preschools pose an “immediate” risk to child health or safety. The risk is caused because Wu does not enforce the state’s mask mandate for school children. Wu registered a complaint to appeal the citation. The investigation by the regulators was a “simultaneous, multi-school raid” that included “unnecessary and inappropriate child interviews.”
As you might imagine, parents are furious.
“This gross abuse of power is shameful and unacceptable for many reasons,’ wrote parents Stephanie and Richard Rosado in another complaint seen by the Voice of San Diego.
‘The people who ordered this to be done and those who participated should be held responsible,’ the parents wrote, telling the news outlet that they spoke to their 4-year-old son about not talking to strangers just a few days before the raids.
Another parent, Connie Wu – who is unrelated to Howard Wu – said her daughter wasn’t even two years old during the January interview and that she’s too young to articulate how it made her feel.
“She’s not developmentally able to tell me. She doesn’t have the vocabulary to be able to talk about being interviewed by a stranger,’ Wu told the news outlet.
California will drop school masking requirements after March 11, leaving the decision up to districts and local jurisdictions. California students and teachers currently have to mask up indoors at K-12 schools statewide, regardless of vaccination status. Officials have kept mask mandates in effect in schools out of fear that children could become seriously ill and require hospitalization, especially since the youngest children are not eligible for vaccines. The problem with that logic, if we are to follow the science, is that children are not in the most vulnerable categories. There has been no proof that school children are super-spreaders of the virus. Teachers were put at the front of the line when COVID vaccines became available, alongside health care workers and first responders. Despite that preferential treatment, teacher unions kept schools closed for more than a year.
Child care guidance in California states that “Children aged 2 and older should be taught and reminded to wear face masks.”
Wu said he communicated with parents about his decision to not require the preschoolers to wear masks. None of the parents voiced complaints to him over that decision.
‘Every family we heard from after the inspections were furious about the interviews,’ Wu told Fox News. ‘We were open the whole pandemic about not masking children and the reasons why.’
Wu added the responses of parents in his complaint to the CDSS, with many arguing that the investigation was out of line and an abuse of power.
Even if the authorities were responding to a complaint by a parent as justification for the raid, separating the two to four year olds and individually questioning them about the school’s mask policy seems like it would be way out of line. Two year olds usually can’t communicate very clearly with strangers and they have likely been taught to not talk to strangers. Of course parents were furious to learn about the investigation and how their babies were dragged into it. However, child care licensing investigators have the authority to separate and interview children. The parents at Aspen Leaf Preschool said they thought such aggressive tactics were meant to be used in extreme cases. Allegations of child abuse would be an example of an extreme case. Many parents would argue that bureaucrats who insist that a two year old child wear a face mask all day is child abuse.
The regulators responded to parents who complained after the raids.
Regulators “determined that the interviews were conducted in an appropriate manner and were a necessary component of the required complaint investigation,” Kevin Gaines, deputy director of child care licensing, wrote to one Aspen Leaf parent, who lodged a complaint.
“Staff are trained to conduct interviews with children in a manner that avoids causing undue stress,” Gaines wrote.
An Aspen Leaf adult was in the “line of sight” of each child, who was interviewed, Gaines told the parent.
The timing of the raids seems odd. Mr. Wu was open from the beginning of the pandemic that he would not enforce mask mandates on his young students. Now that the pandemic is waning and even hyper-strict California is ending mask mandates, suddenly the state decides to investigate Mr. Wu’s preschools. It’s all pandemic theatre. It’s causing irreparable damage to children and it has to stop.