While a coronavirus surge continues in Los Angeles County, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, parents say a man has repeatedly harassed their middle school children for wearing masks as they walk to and from school in La Crescenta-Montrose.
The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department is investigating after a recent tirade directed at a group of Glendale Unified School District students was caught on video.
In the video recorded Thursday at a parking lot near Rosemont Middle School, a man wearing a shirt that says “Your mask makes you look stupid” shouts at a group of students huddled near a car.
“Stay scared, keep your mask on,” the man yells in the parking lot at a shopping plaza where parents often pick up their children.
A parent who recorded the interaction, who identified himself only as Ned to local news outlets, said the man coughed on the children before the video began.
Emily Lanigan, another parent, said a sheriff’s deputy who was called to the parking lot could not determine whether a crime was committed but instead lectured the students that the man who yelled at them is allowed freedom of speech.
“What the officer did was wrong. I was absolutely shocked,” Lanigan said. “After Thursday’s incident, it became clear that the Sheriff’s Department did not take the situation seriously.”
Lanigan said the man in the video has been harassing students and school staffers about masks since July. Glendale Unified students returned to classrooms this month and are required to wear masks in accordance with L.A. County Public Health Department guidelines.
On Monday, a group of parents met with sheriff’s deputies at the Crescenta Valley station to ask whether the incident was under investigation. They were given a sheet of paper with a complaint number written by a deputy, Lanigan said.
Sheriff’s Lt. Robert Hahnlein of the Crescenta Valley station said the man in the video is a parent whose children attend Glendale Unified schools. The Sheriff’s Department did not release his name.
“He’s just an anti-masker who wants to voice his opinion, and the other day it escalated into a verbal confrontation,” Hahnlein said.
Glendale Unified spokesperson Kristine Nam said the district is aware of the parent and issued him a “civility letter” on Saturday, letting him know that he would no longer be allowed on school property.
“The main thing we’re focused on is the safety of our community,” Nam said.