Southmoreland school board member wears paper bag in mask-wearing protest

SCOTTDALE, Pa. — A number of parents are frustrated over what a Southmoreland School board member chose to do during Thursday night’s school board meeting.

“It’s a grown woman acting like a child. It’s disgusting. My kids behave better than that,” said Roxanne Roscoe, whose children attend the Southmoreland School District.

“It’s an embarassment to think this is how my kids’ school district is being represented,” said Greg Atkins, whose children also attend the district.

Dr. Catherine Fike chose to wear a brown paper bag over her head during the district’s school board meeting.

“She just kept saying she was complying with my rule. She referred to it as covering her head, mouth and nose, which is not the policy. You’ve read the policy, the policy states that you cover your mouth and your nose,” said Michelle Williams, president of the Southmoreland School District school board.

Williams said this was the discussion she had with Fike before the school board meeting began, but Fike chose to continue wearing the bag over her head.

“My two-year-old can wear a mask. I don’t understand how a grown woman who is a leader in the community shouldn’t be able to wear a mask,” said Roscoe.

In March of 2021, Fike allegedly showed up to two school board meetings without wearing a mask. Those actions led to an updated mask policy that was recently approved. School security guards can’t allow anyone into school buildings without a mask. Williams explained to Channel 11 that Fike told her a medical condition prevents her from wearing a mask. The district said several options were offered to Fike in order for her to safely participate in school board meetings, including setting a laptop up in a separate room for her.

“We provided her with a face shield that she could’ve worn. We had face shields there last night that she could’ve worn. When you claim that you can’t wear a mask because of medical issues, I certainly wouldn’t expect you to then put a brown paper bag over your head. I don’t think it sends a good message to our students who see this, as well as our community,” said Williams.

Channel 11 tried to get Fike’s side of the story, but she declined to comment.

“We’ve decided that we are pulling our kids from the district as of next year, and it’s a shame because our teacher are amazing and have done so much through this pandemic for the kids,” said Roscoe.

Williams told Channel 11 that Fike’s actions only represent 11% of a school board that is working hard to improve various situations in the district.

“I think we have a good school district, and we have a lot of people working hard to make it better. It’s sad to me that this is what we are in the news for right now,” said Williams.

Our partners at TribLive.com said Fike is a retired school psychologist.