California parents are expressing outrage at the news that agents of the state government conducted a series of “mask raids” of San Diego area preschools, separating toddlers from their adult caretakers to interrogate them.
On Jan. 19, officials with the Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD) of the California Department of Social Services conducted unannounced inspection visits with three locations operated by Aspen Leaf Preschool. The CDSS had been reportedly tipped off that the locations were not strictly compliant with the state’s school masking mandates.
Howard Wu is the owner of the schools and told Fox News the incident was a “simultaneous, multi-school raid.” Wu said that children as young as two years old were separated from adults and interviewed by the state agents alone and without parental or school consent.
Wu said that Aspen Leaf schools have never enforced the state masking mandate. He added that the school determined the rules were pointless for the children since they would not be required to wear masks while eating or napping, taking up much of the time spent at the facilities.
The CCLD issued a “Type A” citation to the school, the highest level applicable to preschools.
In a March 1 letter to parents, the CCLD said it spoke with children to “ensure their health and safety” in child care facilities. It said that it confirmed that conversations with children were conducted “within the line of sight” of school staff, deeming them all to be “appropriate and necessary.” CCLD added that its licensing evaluators are “respectful” of a child’s decisions about answering questions.
Aspen Leaf elected to continue operating by complying with the masking rules, which ended March 11.
Wu maintains that the CCLD did not have the legal authority to enforce the mandate because it is not the agency that issued it. The California Department of Public Health instead imposed the masking rules. He said the multi-school raids coordinated to occur at the same time “felt like a power play.”
Aspen Leaf is appealing the citation it was issued. At the same time, CCLD maintains the claim that it has the power to enter and inspect a licensed facility “at any time, with or without notice” and to interview children in private if necessary. Of course, the power granted to the agency is expected to protect children from immediate and substantial harm.