Innovations Academy Director threatens to personally drive students who don’t wear masks home
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The Director of Innovations Academy, Christine Kuglen, threated to drive home students who weren’t wearing masks in class, even though their parents weren’t home.
Last week, the school requested PJ Sullivan to come to campus and pick up his 9-year-old daughter, a fourth grader, because she was not wearing her mask in the classroom. PJ and his wife did, and were told by the School Director, Christin Kuglen, that they anticipated the mask mandate ending February 15th.
California’s statewide mask mandate did expire February 15th, but Dr. Mark Ghaly announced the mask mandate for students would be extended until the end of the month. Ghaly didn’t provide any evidence to justify the extension, but said the state will reassess in two weeks.
So about a week later, on Wednesday, February 16th, Sullivan dropped of his kids at school, only to be called within 10-minutes to be told his children weren’t wearing masks.
Sullivan thinks the call came from the school nurse, who he told that himself nor his wife were able to return to campus to pick up their kids. Furthermore, Sullivan says he explained “that the school has a legal obligation to give my kids an in-person education and they have a constitutional right to exercise free speech and freedom of expression and cannot be disciplined for having health concerns.”
He told the nurse to have Kuglen call him immediately, but she never did. Instead of calling, Kuglen sent Sullivan a text message at 8:46 AM demanding he and/or his wife pick up the three kids who won’t wear masks before 9:30 AM.
Sullivan did not respond, only to get another text from Kuglen at 10:37 AM. In this text, Kuglen threatened to drive Sullivan’s kids home and leave them them at their house alone. Kuglen added, “it is unreasonable to ask your children to go through this.”
As you may expect, this text from the School Director outraged the Sullivan family.
PJ responded, “Do not under any circumstances put my child in a vehicle unless it is an emergency and it’s an ambulance to drive them to the hospital. If they are left outside without full supervision and adequate accommodations we will be forced to call the police…”
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Sullivan was infuriated and ended up driving to the school because he received a call from his daughter who said she was all alone, away from her classmates.
When he got there, Kuglen was on a phone call so he waited to be able to speak with her.
According to Sullivan, Kuglen walked out of her office on her phone, and said something about threatening to call Child Protective Services, and added that she had already spoken to her attorney.
Kuglen then began ranting and referred to the last text message she sent to Sullivan that reads, “you are using your children as game pieces to make a point which I do not respect. We will not allow them on campus tomorrow at all unless they agree to wear a mask aloud so don’t even bring them. We have independent study for students who don’t want to follow the mandate.”
Kuglen also told Sullivan that his children not wearing masks at school is analogous to allowing them to attend school naked. Sullivan told her that was a very poor analogy and that he was “horrified with her lack of professionalism and disappointed in the manner in which she was handling the situation.”
PJ Sullivan and three of his children joined KUSI’s Ginger Jeffries on Good Evening San Diego to share exactly what happened to them, and why they decided to take off their masks in class.
KUSI News reached out to Kuglen for comment, here is what she said:
I think it is a waste of everyone’s time to get me on the news for a nonstory. The mask mandate is the mask mandate, I don’t have the luxury of making my own mandates. if you are interested in interviewing someone about the mask mandate, I recommend Gov. Newsom. He is the one who made it and will be able to respond to your questions better than I. That is what this is about. These two parents, out of 800+ have written all over social media for people to all and threaten my job and me and accuse me of kidnapping etc. They just want the mandate lifted and are directing their anger at the closest person of any minimal authority. I am a public servant who manages a small charter school in Kearny Mesa. Beware of the fake quotes about what I have said and condemning a school that was kept open the whole time, except March -June 2020. Beware of who you support.
Dear IA Families,
I am sending this message because I believe that students will go home today with stories and experiences about the “mask protest” and I want you to have accurate information. Six of our 469 students came to school and then refused to put masks on in their classrooms. They were promptly sent to the office and their parents contacted to pick them up or to speak with them on the phone about wearing a mask. One student decided to put a mask on after speaking with a parent and went to class. Another student spoke to their parent who decided to come and pick them up. The other four students’ parents refused to answer the phone and when texted, refused to pick them up. I considered both having the students wait outside for their parents and taking them home myself, but our staff is busy and so am I, so we continued to reach out to those parents while those individual students did schoolwork in an enclosed, supervised office space. Those parents then chose to have numerous other people not related to our school make negative and challenging phone calls to the office repeatedly and then call and text my cell phone repeatedly. I am not sure what their goal was, but it was all unnecessary and not going to change anything.
I feel sad for these children who are being used as game pieces to strike out in anger at Governor Newsom (who, by the way, is completely unaware of our little school in Kearny Mesa). I am bewildered that this school would be placed in the position of either supporting the use of children this way or following a state mandate that holds the force and power of law. I am sorry these parents chose to put their children through this. Please understand that children are not allowed to break the law without consequences. The consequence, in this case, is doing school at home.
Unfortunately for tomorrow, due to this incident and directly spoken threats of ongoing refusal, all children coming onto campus will be screened at the gate verbally. If they agree to wear a mask in the building they will be allowed on campus. Otherwise, they will not enter the gate or the building. Our doors will remain locked during the day. Please ring the doorbell if you have a need to be addressed inside the school building. Innovations Academy is not my school, it is a public school and I will instruct my staff to follow all laws whether I like them or not. Let me be fully disclosed here. I do not want the mask mandate. I believe that we should all be able to take personal responsibility for our health and that we should have the freedom to wear or not wear masks. But this school is not about what I want. It is about an agreement that I made when I decided to open it. I understand your frustrations and I wish I had the power to end this mandate, but I don’t and I will not ask my staff to break the law. I encourage you to call the Governor’s office and sit on hold, as I did, to express your frustrations to the one making this decision.
We have also received calls today from parents concerned about children taking off masks in school. These callers chose to threaten us with calling “authorities” and accusing us of not following the mandates and allowing children to be unmasked in class. Please take a moment prior to making demands and accusations to ask questions first. You all have the right to sign a master agreement and get credit for school days while working at home. If you are this heated and you feel that school is not healthy, you might want to take advantage of that option.
For the record: I also believe standardized state assessments are a waste of time and do not accurately measure a child’s abilities nor future success and is most certainly harmful at times for some children. I believe we should not be serving free food (especially unhealthy food) to all children at schools. But, once, again, this is not about me and my beliefs. This is an agreement to uphold the laws applicable to charter schools. We are a public educational institution of choice and I would like to fully commit to support parents by educating in the areas of math, science, social studies, language arts and physical education with a social emotional emphasis that helps children build the resiliience necessary to survive this madness we call life.
Thank you for everything you do. I hold no anger about any of this. I understand that my position calls for me to make unpleasant decisions and that I should be accountable for the decisions I make. I have no fear in leading this school. I feel sorry for all of us living through a scary (for some) situation that was mishandled by political leaders that we elected. We are all great people. We all share a love of our children (and yours). I hope we can find peace amidst the storm.
Let’s see what is decided on February 28th when school mask mandates are revisited.
Have a lovely day.