Board meeting chaos: Sparta school board president reacts to hostile meeting environments

This story has been updated to reflect that a man deliberately sprayed the crowd with a hose.

SPARTA, Wis. (WKBT) – The debate over masks in schools is emotional for people on both sides, but the meetings are appearing to get more out of hand.

The Sparta Area School District’s mask policy requires students and staff to wear a mask inside school buildings.

The district’s school board meeting on Tuesday night triggered some shouting from people over its mask policy, but more than just arguments that unfolded.

A Facebook Live video surfaced showing a man, whom Sparta police identified as Kelly Anderson, using a pressure washer at the meeting.  He was spraying water at a big sheet that people were holding up.

“He was trying to demonstrate that water couldn’t get through a mask,” Board President Josh Lydon said.

But then, the man lifted the hose above the sheet, hitting people attending.

According to an incident report from the Sparta Police Department, Anderson was cited for disorderly conduct.

It’s the latest school board meeting to get heated over masks in school.

“The demonstration got a little out of hand,” Lydon said.

A hostile environment Lydon is becoming all too familiar with.

“Parents feel a passion about their kids. I mean, I can’t blame them,” Lydon said. “I’m passionate about my own.”

The meeting got so out of hand that a Sparta police officer had to escort the man out of it.

Lydon says in his three and a half years of being a school board member, he’s never seen the police get called into meetings.

“It just so happens that with the topics we’ve been dealing with lately, compromise is hard to find,” Lydon said.

Which he says is never an easy task with any topic, but it’s even more difficult now.

“I mean I would lie if I told you I hadn’t had a ton of sleepless nights,” Lydon said.

“What do you go home after these nights, after these board meetings, thinking to yourself?,” reporter Tyler Job asked.

“It’s difficult,” Lydon said. “It eats at you.”

But he says he remembers why he does what he does.

“It’s the kids,” Lydon said. “The community. I do it for my own kids.”

Doing what he believes is the right thing to make this community less divided.

At the meeting, the school board voted 4-2 in favor of keeping the mandatory mask policy.

Leaders will revisit the policy a month after the COVID-19 vaccine is available to students younger than 12.

Lydon said that, if he had the choice, he would not mandate vaccines for students.

The full incident report can be found below.

Sparta PD

Recent News Headlines from News 8 Now/News 8000

School board group asks US for help policing threats

Inside Fort McCoy: Afghan refugees wait for resettlement in U.S.

La Crosse police remind Maple Leaf Parade watchers of rules

‘Tapping of Golden Keg’ to highlight second day of Oktoberfest in La Crosse