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NH Supreme Court Upholds Conviction of Kingston Woman Who Violated Mask Mandate

Kathy Bossi doesn’t think refusing to wear a face mask at a public meeting is a crime. But New Hampshire’s Supreme Court upheld her trespassing conviction anyway.

The Kingston grandmother and Sunday school teacher lost her appeal when the state Supreme Court ruled late last week that she was, in fact, guilty of trespass at a school board meeting when she protested a mask mandate.

Bossi was arrested at a May 2021 Timberlane Regional School Board meeting when she refused to put on a surgical face mask, which the school required as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic raging at the time.

Mask mandates became a cultural hot button as parents across the country responded with protests. The video of police officers pulling the handcuffed Bossi out of the Timberlane High School auditorium went viral.

In her appeal, Bossi argued refusing to wear a mask isn’t a crime, and she cannot be criminally charged for not being masked. The court ruled, however, that Bossi was convicted for entering a space without privilege or license and not for mask refusal.

“The defendant also argues that the case should have been dismissed because ‘[r]efusing to wear a surgical mask as a condition for attending a public meeting at Timberlane Regional School Board is not a crime.’ The school board did condition the license or privilege to enter the auditorium on wearing a mask, and it authorized the Plaistow Police Department to enforce the policy. Because the defendant entered the auditorium without license or privilege, she was arrested for criminal trespass,” the court ruled.

Bossi was part of a group of Timberlane parents protesting the district’s in-school masking policy. When she refused to put on a mask in order to get into the auditorium, she was arrested.

“You are violating my rights right now,” Bossi told police in the video. “Are you seriously doing this, you guys?”

School Board Chair Katie Knutsen did not respond to NHJournal’s request for comment.

The school district had enacted a policy that everyone entering school buildings was required to wear face masks, including the auditorium where board meetings were held. The school board posted signs outside the meeting that said face masks were required, and the face mask requirement was noticed in the meeting agenda. 

Bossi and a few other protesters pushed past police officers with signs to get into the auditorium before they were stopped. According to court records, officers had spoken to Bossi and the mask requirement and told her she could not enter the meeting without a mask. 

Bossi reportedly told police she was going to get into the auditorium without a mask, and they could not stop her. While she did manage to get into the meeting, she was soon arrested. Bossi reportedly refused to give police her name when she was first taken into custody.

The in-person meeting was canceled shortly after Bossi’s arrest, and the board met via Zoom.

Bossi was convicted on the misdemeanor criminal trespassing charge in Salem District Court. One count of disorderly conduct was conditionally dismissed until Bossi’s appeal was heard and decided. 

Bossi represented herself in the appeal and argued that refusing to comply with a mask mandate does not rise to the level of being a crime and that she had every right to be in the public building during a public meeting.

Bossi did not respond to NHJournal’s request for comment.

Part of Bossi’s argument rests on her theory that police officers did not have the right to enforce a mask mandate. However, the court found police were at the meeting by request of the school board. The board was concerned about anti-mask protesters causing a disturbance and asked officers to keep the peace.

Public health authorities, including former White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, have since acknowledged a lack of data supporting mask mandates as an effective response to the pandemic. 

Earlier this month, Fauci admitted the six-foot rule used to keep classrooms closed during the pandemic was not based on science or data but rather “sort of just appeared.”

New Nashua Super An Anti-School Choice, Pro-Mask Advocate

Stephen Linkous, Nashua School District’s new superintendent, is on record opposing school choice and supporting facemask requirements.

Linkous was named this week as the next superintendent of the 11,000-student district that has been dealing with COVID-19-related turmoil since 2020. He is currently chief of staff for the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools and is slated to start in Nashua on July 1.

“I am extremely excited to have been selected as the next superintendent of the Nashua School District. I believe we have a great staff, community, Board of Education, and most importantly great students,” Linkous said in a prepared statement.

Linkous was among the Kansas public education leaders who waged a battle against that state’s expansion of its education savings account program last year. While the expansion allowed more low and moderate-income families to attend private schools, Linkous and others protested it would take money from the public school system.

“The increased eligibility will inevitably shift more tax dollars away from public schools to this new program,” Linkous said last year. “This change would take public tax dollars away from existing schools that educate any and all students.”

His pick as the next Nashua superintendent comes as the Granite State has successfully rolled out its own school choice program that is used by more than 1,600 families statewide. In Nashua, 77 families are using the Education Freedom Accounts to attend private school or pay for homeschool materials.

Sarah Scott, director of grassroots operations with Americans for Prosperity–New Hampshire, hopes Linkous’ selection does not signal a new animosity toward families who want school choice. Nashua is already home to several charter schools and private schools, including the Academy of Science and Design, one of the top-rated charter schools in the state.

“It’s clear that the community of Nashua sees the value in giving families choice when it comes to education. We hope the school board and school administration’s views and actions reflect the Nashua community’s commitment to education opportunity,” Scott said.

While New Hampshire’s Education Freedom Accounts have proved popular, they are opposed by the state’s education establishment. Democratic politicians at the New Hampshire State House are trying to rescind the program altogether, or restrict who can take part.

Gov. Chris Sununu also announced Wednesday that schools will no longer be able to mandate masks under the state’s new public health guidance on COVID-19. And without the state’s public health guidance, Sununu said, schools have no legitimate reason to turn away children who aren’t wearing masks.

“Given the new public health guidance released today, mask requirements in school policies are inconsistent with the Ed 306 rules,” a spokesperson for the state Department of Education said in a statement.  “A mask requirement may violate the district’s obligation to maintain policies that ‘Meet[] the instructional needs of each individual student.'”

Linkous was a strong proponent of masking in Kansas.

“The safety of our staff and students is No. 1,” he said at the start of the current school year. “Getting masks on, they’re not always the most comfortable thing. They are going to keep us safe.”

Linkous is taking over a district that was a flashpoint in the Granite State’s fight over how far to take COVID mitigation policies. Nashua parents were frustrated by decisions made by outgoing Superintendent Jahmal Mosley during the COVID-19 pandemic. While schools throughout the state tried to balance safety and educational needs, Nashua public schools went completely remote for nearly a year. The remote class started in March of 2020, and students stayed in remote until March 2021, when Gov. Chris Sununu issued an executive order forcing schools to return to in-person learning.

Some parents pulled their kids and went to private schools. Others waged a fight to pressure the school system to change policies. An organization called Nashua Parent Voice, with hundreds of members, rose up to advocate returning children to classrooms.

Data show the decision to close classrooms has led to massive education loss and an increase in mental health issues, particularly among low-income families and communities of color. Nashua has one of the most diverse populations in the state.

Mosley announced his plans to leave citing his difficult relationship with the board.

“As much as I want to see this district move forward and our strategic plan take hold, it is no longer feasible or tenable for me to manage a district as well as manage a school board that has been unable to work as a cohesive unit for many years now,” Mosley said in his resignation letter. “Our fundamental differences on governance, race relations, and re-opening of schools during a pandemic have proven insurmountable.”

Nashua’s Board of Education meetings devolved into debates over issues like remote learning, mask requirements, Critical Race Theory, transgender acceptance, 2020 election conspiracies, and other hot button issues. The protests began with parents advocating for children, but for a time, critics say, they were overtaken by extremists using the meetings to further political agendas beyond education.

“I look forward to listening, collaborating, learning, and leading as we continue the excellent work in many areas, and as we create excellence in others. I look forward to becoming a member of the Nashua community very soon,” Linkous said.


House Republicans, Health Care Experts Debate Vaccine Mandate Bans

House Republicans are pushing several proposals to curb COVID-19 vaccine and mask requirements, including banning private businesses from requiring a shot for employees. But New Hampshire’s healthcare professionals are pushing back — hard.

“A vaccination mandate should be job-related and consistent with business necessity,” says Pamela DiNapoli, executive director of the New Hampshire Nurses Association.

And New Hampshire Hospital Association President Steve Ahnen points out, “Hospitals have an inherent responsibility to protect the health and safety of their patients who, by their very nature, are very ill and the COVID-19 vaccine is the most effective way we can do that.” He objects to any legislation that would “essentially render moot any requirements that an employer has determined are in the best interests of those they serve by simply saying no to the vaccine requirement on the grounds of a conscientious objection declaration.”

The debate, which is dividing some in the business community from their traditional Granite State GOP allies, comes down to whether business owners should be free to set their own rules for employees, or if employees should have the right to ignore workplace rules regarding vaccinations.

“People say businesses have a right to do that, but they don’t have the right to get involved in people’s medical,” said state Rep. Al Baldasaro (R-Londonderry).

Baldasaro is sponsoring a number of proposals, including HB 1224, which would prohibit state and local governments from having any vaccines requirement, and it would prevent what he says is discrimination against people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Dozens of bills related to the COVID-19 vaccine were filed at the start of the session, though many in the State House think they will get narrowed down to a few laws that will make it to Gov. Chris Sununu. Among proposals under consideration is House Speaker Sherman Packard’s own HB 1455. It would prevent state enforcement of any federal vaccine mandate and limit the number of times a person can be required to get a COVID-19 test to once a month.

“I am not against the vaccine in any way shape or form,” Packard (R-Londonderry), said when he introduced the bill. “What I’m against is the mandate from Washington D.C.”

There are also efforts to allow people to more easily opt-out of the state’s new vaccine registry. Another bill would stop employers from requiring COVID-19 tests while yet another would make people who lose work due to vaccine refusal eligible for unemployment benefits. 

Many in the state are opposed to bills that would ban mandates. The New Hampshire Hospital Association told lawmakers that requiring vaccinations in healthcare settings is “absolutely the right thing to do.”

“Requiring vaccinations of healthcare workers from communicable diseases is not new for hospitals in New Hampshire. Hospitals have required vaccination against several communicable and deadly diseases such as mumps, measles, rubella, chickenpox, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and influenza as a condition of employment, with the same type of medical and religious exemptions allowed for COVID-19 vaccines,” the New Hampshire Hospital Association said in written testimony.

Tom Cronin, director of government relations for the University System of New Hampshire, said in a letter to lawmakers that HB 1490 would prohibit the enforcement of any vaccine requirements on a college campus. Long before COVID-19, most campuses required students to be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, meningitis, and chickenpox, Cronin noted. The bill also prevents colleges from requiring mask-wearing and other measures shown to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“Legislation that would permit individuals to disregard well-founded public health guidance, such as requirements to wear face coverings in busy, indoor spaces, undermines efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus on our campuses,” Cronin wrote.

The New Hampshire Nurses’ Association is also opposed to the proposals limiting employer mandates for the vaccine and masking requirements.

“By prohibiting employers and places of public accommodation from adopting mandates, that would otherwise protect employees from the transmission of COVID-19, has the potential to cause death or serious physical harm to vulnerable populations requiring such protections,” the New Hampshire Nurses’ Association said in a letter to lawmakers.

Republicans reply they don’t oppose the vaccine or mask-wearing, just the mandates. President Donald Trump, viewed by some as a vaccine skeptic, recently announced he is fully vaccinated and has received the booster. 

Baldasaro, who is not vaccinated, said people need to be free to not undergo any medical procedure that they do not want. 

“I believe that goes against their privacy,” Baldasaro said.

He said he still suffers ill effects from the medications and vaccines he was required to take while a member of the United States Marine Corps. 

Another proposal, HB 1358, would eliminate COVID-19 testing as an employment requirement while at the same time making it easier for employees to get an exemption from the vaccine. Again, the New Hampshire Nurses’ Association disagrees with this approach.

“Restricting evidence-based testing requirements and/or allowing conscientious objector exemptions may significantly inhibit employers’ ability to maintain a safe work environment while putting vulnerable and immune-compromised individuals at risk,” according to the association. 

Packard said the issue for him is the federal mandate, which he believes is a major overstep.

“I encourage people to get vaccinated, but I will not be blackmailed by the federal government,” he said.

President Joe Biden pushed for a federal vaccine mandate, using the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to enact the mandate. That effort was rejected by the courts, including the United States Supreme Court, and the OSHA mandate was withdrawn.