Grace Smith, a 16-year-old student at Laramie High School in Wyoming, was handcuffed and arrested Thursday when she refused to leave campus after being suspended for violating the district’s mask mandate.
Smith told reporters that the first time she was sent home for violating the school district’s mask mandate, she “just left.” But after her family consulted a lawyer, she decided to “push it.” In that instance, she refused to leave until police issued her a $500 trespassing ticket.
On Thursday, she pushed it even further, refusing to leave the school after being suspended, and after being warned and ticketed by Laramie police.
In a widely circulated video the teen recorded on her phone, school administrators can be seen explaining the school’s mask policy to Grace Smith for at least the third time.
“Can you please let me into class?” Smith asks a faculty member.
“I can’t unless you’re going to wear a mask,” he responds.
“So you’re taking away my right to go to school?” she asks.
“I need you to wear a mask because that’s what we’re doing right now,” the man explains.
After that, a voice on the PA system can be heard announcing that the school is entering a lockdown, and another administrator is seen asking her to sign a document that she understands the terms of her suspension — which include barring her from school district property until the suspension expires.
It’s not clear if Grace Smith signed the document, because the video quickly cuts to an interaction with a Laramie police officer in what appears to be the school lobby.
“You’ve been suspended, they’ve asked you to leave, it sounds like you’re refusing, to me,” the officer says. “As law enforcement, I am now respectfully requesting that you leave the premises because you’ve been suspended. Are you willing to do that?”
“No,” Smith responds.
The officer can then be seen issuing a formal, verbal “warning of trespass,” which at which point Smith says again will not leave. Then, the officer says he will be issuing her a “citation” — a ticket — and warns her that if she still refuses to leave that she will be arrested.
After Grace Smith is seen receiving her ticket, the officer returns after some length of time, asks her to leave once more, and then informs her that he is taking her into custody.
According to the Laramie Boomerang, Grace Smith was transported to the Laramie police station after being arrested, and was then promptly released. The only charge filed was the $500 trespassing misdemeanor citation she received before her arrest.
She told local reporters that she knowingly violated school policy “because I’m growing up in a country where I’m supposed to have my God-given rights to protect, and they’re being taken away.”
“Everybody has the freedom to wear a mask if they choose, but I believe everybody also has the right to not wear a mask if they choose,” the 16-year-old said.
Grace Smith and her father Andy have set up a page on crowd-funding site GiveSendGo to “help with the legal cost of defending her civil liberties.” As of Tuesday, the Smiths have raised more than $70,000.
In a statement, the school district said it issued the 90-minute lockdown in response to a “student disciplinary disturbance.”
“The lockdown was issued in order to prevent further interruptions to academic learning,” said officials.
Albany County School District 1 reportedly issued the mask mandate last month, as the infection rate in Wyoming spiked. The policy, which was originally written to expire on Oct. 15, will review the policy in its regular meeting on Wednesday night.