By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A teenage girl who defied the mask mandate implemented by the Albany County School District was arrested on Thursday.
Grace Smith, 16, was arrested on Thursday at Laramie High School due to her refusal to leave the school after she was suspended for not wearing a mask. The officer told her it was considered trespassing.
Her father, Andy Smith, posted videos of his daughter being suspended by district superintendent Dr. Jubal Yennie to YouTube, as well as two videos of her being arrested and taken into custody.
“You are taking away her rights as a citizen of the state provided to her by the constitution of Wyoming,” Andy Smith told school officials when his daughter was suspended.
Yennie told Grace and her father that she was being suspended due to her continued refusal to wear a mask when in school, despite the mandate.
Grace went into custody willingly and was polite with officers when arrested, the videos show.
The school district implemented a mask mandate in early September after Albany County and Wyoming’s COVID cases continue to climb, as well as its hospitalizations. Its mask mandate is slated to expire on Oct. 15, unless school officials decide to extend it.
The Smiths spoke with State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, on Thursday following her arrest about the incident. The video was posted to social media on Friday.
Grace explained she has been suspended from school for six days, three separate two-day suspensions, and received $1,000 in trespassing fines for refusing to leave school grounds “because I had the right to education.”
“It makes me feel unwanted by the school system,” Grace told Bouchard. “It makes me stressed out that I have to fight this battle as a 16-year-old. Right now, I should be playing sports and having fun. And instead I’m fighting for the rights that were supposed to be won hundreds of years ago.”
Andy Smith added that the family has taken every opportunity to inform every authority figure that has issued suspensions or trespassing fines that they are infringing on the Smiths’ constitutional rights.
“Law enforcement informed us they were operating under the pretense…she was not in compliance with the trespassing orders,” Andy Smith told Bouchard. “They said they have no choice to arrest her because she is not complying with the trespassing citation. When asked if they’re arresting her for not wearing a mask, they’ll say no.”
The school was also put under a lockdown order for more than an hour due to Grace’s arrest, her father said.
Grace added she has been called “vulgar” names by peers, had terrible things said to her by teachers and seen other parents discriminate against her due to her refusal to wear a mask in school.
“I am a straight-A student,” Grace told Bouchard. “I’ve never broken the law. I would never choose to do anything wrong and I never saw myself sitting in the back of a cop car, handcuffed.”
Andy Smith also said that no officials have been able to provide a law, statute or any legal information on why they can enforce the mandate against his daughter, implying that the family might sue due to the situation.
Bouchard said this was an example of COVID tyranny in the state and that officials would ignore the constitution to make people fall in line.
“I don’t see an end here, I see that that we just keep being told to do something else,” the senator said.
Carbon County Republican Party chairman Joey Correnti IV shared a post on social media supporting the teenager, saying “Wyoming needs more Grace.”
The Smith family did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Friday.
In an interview with Cowboy State Politics, Andy Smith told host David Iverson that Grace made the decision for herself to not wear a mask, and it was nothing her family forced on her.
He added that initially when the mandate was implemented in September, the school district was going to allow exemption forms, but Yennie ultimately revoked them and only allowed exemptions under eight criteria, none of which Grace met.
Andy Smith told Iverson that he thinks Grace was empowering other students to defy the mask mandate and that school officials were picking on his daughter.