Oregon Superintendent Who Enforced School Mask Mandate Fired

Kevin Purnell didn't agree with it, but followed the rules
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 2, 2021 1:57 AM CDT
Oregon Superintendent Who Enforced School Mask Mandate Fired
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / arrowsmith2)

(Newser) – Just a week after school started in Oregon's Adrian School District, the superintendent has been fired. As the Malheur Enterprise reports, Kevin Purnell had been requiring schools in the rural district to comply with Gov. Kate Brown's mask mandate, though he said he didn't agree with it himself. While sources tell that newspaper and others, including the Argus Observer, that that's why he was fired, the Adrian School Board didn't officially give a reason when it announced his termination following a closed-door meeting Monday night. The board chair later said it was because Purnell was not following board directives, Oregon Live reports.

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Purnell has vocally opposed COVID measures since last year, stating at a December board meeting on the subject of schools reopening for full in-person instruction, "if a group really wanted to protest, they would just drop their kids off. Schools would then be forced to do something with the kids." After the school mask mandate was announced in July, he opposed it in a letter to the community. But he continued to require schools to abide by it, despite its unpopularity in the community, where some people are concerned that mandating masks in schools will lead parents to pull their kids out and move them to schools in nearby Idaho where such requirements aren't in place.

Even so, the meeting to announce the termination of Purnell after three years as superintendent, 14 years in the district, and 37 years in education (as a principal, teacher, and coach) got emotional. "’I'm a senior this year at Adrian and I don’t really care what it takes," said the Associated Student Body president as she fought not to cry. "Being online in school was not good. And if it means doing something I don't want to do, because I don’t want to wear a mask, I’ll do what it takes." "The last 18 months ... I have struggled trying to follow my own convictions and trying to please all sides," Purnell, who did wipe away tears, said. "I have become tired. Tired of disappointing myself, my family, my friends, my colleagues." (Read more Oregon stories.)

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