Several parents at a preschool in San Diego are outraged after state child care licensing investigators conducted “mask raids” and took preschoolers at random to interview them alone about the school’s masking policy.
As part of an investigation into the masking practices at Aspen Leaf Preschool – which has three locations in San Diego – all three locations were “raided” at the same time. Regulators isolated the young students, taking them away from familiar adults, then asked them questions about masking policies/practices at Aspen Leaf.
Oddly enough, Aspen Leaf had already been upfront with parents and regulators about their decision to not force children to wear masks. Nevertheless, the investigators still came into the school and interviewed students ages one to four, which many parents said was completely inappropriate and unnecessary.
The California Department of Social Services oversees regulatory compliance in preschools through its child care licensing program. Parents at Aspen Leaf have claimed that the isolated interrogation tactics used on their children are meant to be used in extreme cases, such as alleged child abuse.
One parent, Stephanie Rosado, spoke out about her 4-year-old son being isolated and interviewed by these strangers. “This gross abuse of power is shameful and unacceptable for many reasons,” said Rosados. “The people who ordered this to be done and those who participated should be held responsible.”
Another parent, Connie Wu, was also upset about her daughter – who was not even 2 years old – being interviewed about the masking policies. Her daughter is too young to even convey what happened in the interview room, or how she felt during the process.
“She’s not developmentally able to tell me,” Wu told Voice of San Diego. “She doesn’t have the vocabulary to be able to talk about being interviewed by a stranger.”
The owners of Aspen Leaf have remained very open and transparent with their opinions on masking in school. Since the students would not be wearing masks during nap time or while eating, they figured COVID would be spread anyways, so it didn’t make sense to force these young children to wear masks in class. Additionally, they worried that the masks would have negative effects on the development of the children.
Howard Wu (no relation to Connie Wu), a part-owner of Aspen Leaf and lawyer, asserts that the child care licensing department lacks the authority to enforce the mask mandate. Wu believes that the reason for the officials to go after his schools was because he openly questioned their authority.
Back in January, Aspen Leaf schools were investigated after a parent complained about the lack of mask-wearing to a licensing authority. A few days later the investigators showed up at all three preschool locations and conducted their coordinated interviews.
After this investigation, Aspen Leaf was issued a Type A citation, which is the most severe form of violation. This forced Aspen Leaf to comply with the state officials to avoid the risk of being shut down.
On March 11, the state’s mask mandate for child care centers comes to an end, and Howard Wu has already stated that Aspen Leaf will return to its no-mask policy afterward.