A regional—Western New York State—news story broke nationally last week concerning a mother, her son, and a school bus driver regarding wearing a mask. The takeaway from the local (WROC) and national reportage (Newsweek) was that something very odd occurred similar to a “News of the Weird” type story or not dissimilar to the type of anecdote recounting the antics of one of the world’s dumbest criminals.
Here’s the story as presented, presumably intended as hard news: A woman named Laine Mulye (pronounced Mull-yay)—perfectly depicted as the shifty-eyed criminal in her mugshot—got into an altercation with a school bus monitor. Their argument was over the bus monitor’s petition that Mulye’s child wears his mask on the bus, which Mulye was apparently against her child doing. Mulye then encouraged her son to take a poke at the bus monitor, for which the seemingly unhinged Mulye was arrested, of course, which led to the strong contender for the week’s most notorious mugshot.
If the reportage couldn’t be read as a political commentary I probably wouldn’t have an issue with it. It would just be a freak story of a woman egging her child on to clock a bus monitor, after which you could follow it with any other “News of the Weird” type story such as a serial baked bean bandit who leaves beans on his neighbors’ doorsteps. However, the political commentary aspect of the story is obviously there, and I’d imagine it is why Newsweek echoed the story. The report paints objectors to masking in schools as potentially violent wingnuts.
Cut to the chase—before the week was out, I interviewed Mulye’s attorney and sitting in the eye of the storm, I also interviewed Mulye herself. I assume you already have a healthy suspicion of mainstream news. I’ll confirm your suspicions by a circuitous route considering the many jaw-dropping angles to the story left unreported by the legacy media.
If there is a key to unlocking the altercation at the bus stop, it may well be a video sent to me by an acquaintance of Mulye’s. I’d advise anyone to look at the mugshot of Mulye publicized by the previously mentioned news outlets. It’s very hard for me to imagine seeing that photo of Mulye that she could be anyone more composed or refined than the average meth addict. However, the video I was sent displays such a radically different side to Mulye that it’s almost impossible to reconcile with the mugshot.
As the video begins [the Video has since been taken down off of YouTube], an unknown woman speaks at a school board meeting podium. She is quavery and near tears and doesn’t seem able to get through her speech, perhaps not surprising as School Superintendent Shawn Van Scoy approaches and hovers over her and tells her to stop. A second woman – Mulye – walks to the podium and takes the document from the woman’s hands. Mulye then begins reading the speech despite the persistent demands from the school superintendent that she desist. The woman who provided me the video—Lauren Kunz, president of the group Moms For Liberty of Wayne County New York—had this to say about it:
“It’s Laine standing up for another mother that was trying to give a speech at the Gananda Central School District Board of Education meeting, and Shawn Van Scoy was attempting to shut her down and tell her to stop speaking. The mother was crying so bad because she was being bullied and speaking about what was happening to her child. Laine picked up her speech, and she kept going for this woman, and she said, ‘You will not make this mother stop speaking her speech. You will not do that to her’, and Laine said that right to the superintendent, so right then and there, she put an ‘X’ on her back.”
Whether it’s hyperbolic or not to say the moment captured on a video marked Laine as a target, it’s also an incomplete recounting of the bus stop incident and Mulye’s arrest to fail to mention that there was prior bad blood between her and Superintendent Van Scoy. The video was, according to Kunz, posted to YouTube briefly, and then she said it was flagged and removed. Kunz also said Mulye made a presentation of her own at the meeting, specifically about her child who had been suicidal the previous school year due partly to the required masking.
I met Mulye at her home intending to take a photograph of her for the story I was writing, and it was unclear before I arrived whether or not I’d be able to interview her. She was due in court the day after we met at her home and obliged her lawyer’s wishes regarding interactions with any reporter. The final arrangement between Mulye and her lawyer Chad Hummel allowed me to interview her but only about events not occurring on the day of the altercation.
I had a fair idea of what had happened at the bus stop after I’d interviewed Kunz, a friend of Mulye’s as well as a local activist, who had spoken to Mulye about the altercation. I’d interviewed Kunz, then the lawyer, then Mulye. In my opinion, I’ll say about the incident that it appears to have been a high-pressure situation exacerbated by a bus aide who was anything but sympathetic to an autistic child’s refusal to wear a mask. The basic situation immediately before and after the altercation, as reported by Kunz, was that Mulye’s child was having a particularly lousy day and needed to be coaxed onto the bus by his mother. The specifics of the child’s transportation to school are that Mulye’s nine-year-old son is only ever the sole passenger on the school minivan. He is accompanied daily by a minivan driver and a bus aide. Mulye’s son not wearing a mask could only have affected two people—the driver and the bus aide—who incidentally were both wearing masks on the day of the altercation. Mulye’s lawyer replied when I asked him if the bus driver and aide would have been aware that Mulye’s child was having a particularly bad day:
“Absolutely. They acknowledge in their supporting depositions—both the bus monitor and the bus driver—they both acknowledge they noticed and witnessed the fact that he rode his bike away and that mom had to go get him and then we switch over to my client’s version. She had to coax him onto the bus, and there’s nothing in their reports that refute that and so yes, the child had to be coaxed onto the minivan at this point, and he was clearly in some distress, and then everything escalated when according to my client the bus monitor, the aide, the one-on-one aide for the child, started yelling at him and berating him to either put his mask on or get off the bus.”
It may be a stretch at this point to suggest that School Superintendent Van Scoy had anything to do with the bus aide’s handling of the situation at the bus stop. Still, Van Scoy would have had his say about how the incident would be handled post-altercation, specifically the public relations campaign against Mulye. What is important immediately is to report on the character of the bus aide, which is yet another aspect of the story left out of the most well-traveled accounts of the incident.
The bus aide apparently had minimal experience with Mulye’s child at the time of the altercation. What also seems to be true is that the bus aide came to the situation with pretty passionate opinions about masking. In a screenshot from the bus monitor’s Facebook wall, provided to me by Kunz and since scrubbed from Facebook, were the lines,
“If YOUR RIGHT to NOT wear a mask is MORE IMPORTANT than the health of ANY child (or person) I surely want nothing to do with you.”
Beyond the potential masking bias of the bus aide or her unfamiliarity with Mulye’s child, there is the question of a medical exemption that could have allowed Mulye’s child with official sanction to go without a mask on school buses and school grounds. The school’s statement regarding the altercation included this passage:
“As a reminder, masking is required on buses and in school buildings for all students and staff members. A medical exemption for masking is honored, and we do currently have a few of those in the district. Medical exemptions can only be honored if they are submitted to the district.”
The statement implies that Mulye’s child did not have a medical exemption but as Mulye’s lawyer explained to me:
“There was an email exchange between mom and the superintendent a couple of days preceding the incident where they discussed the impending mask exemption. In other words, they were discussing the idea that the mask exemption existed but that the school district wanted to see the note, so to speak, from the doctor. I’ve seen the doctor’s records. I’ve seen the doctor’s notations that the child does not have to wear a mask. The school district’s argument that they had not seen that is a red herring because—the way I’ve explained it is like this: If you wake up at two in the morning, I don’t think you need to go outside to know that it’s dark. You just know that it’s dark. This superintendent knew that he had a special needs child on his hands, the child had an IEP, the child had a one-on-one bus aide, and he discussed the impending mask issue with the parents, so those being the circumstances, should it not be the superintendent’s obligation and duty at that point to lay low, in other words, it’s almost as if he’s trying to justify the district’s conduct on a technicality.“
That technicality I’d assume would be, as expressed in the school’s passage about medical exemptions, a stringent definition of the phrase “submitted to the district.” Mulye also made plain to me, in addition to Hummel’s contention that Mulye and the superintendent were in conversation about the medical exemption, that Mulye had also spoken to the bus monitor about her son’s medical exemption. The question I asked Mulye that led to that bit of information was the extent to which the bus monitor had acted as an aide to her son before the altercation took place on Friday, September 10th. Mulye answered:
“Previous to Wednesday—the first day (son’s name removed) attended school—which was September 8th, I had never met the woman before. I didn’t recognize her, I hadn’t seen her before. I don’t recall that I’d ever met the bus driver. Occasionally my kids have substitutes, so he might have, but I didn’t recall ever seeing him before either. So that was the first day, that Wednesday, he rode the bus to school and home. Thursday, he was unable to get on the bus; he couldn’t emotionally handle it, so I drove him, and he rode the bus home, so this was literally only my personal second interaction with her. That first day I had told her that he had medical exemptions and he likely would not be able to wear a mask on the bus.”
In my interview with Mulye, we steered clear of the events taking place the day of the altercation, but Kunz had previously spoken to Mulye about the events of that day and relayed some of that information to me. Though perhaps inexact as the recollection is secondhand, this was part of what I knew about the arrest through Kunz:
“She was taken into custody. They groped her, did the pat-down, took her into a room, strip-searched her, made her take off all of her clothes. They turned away in shame as she stood there completely naked. It was a woman who was there, but she has no idea if there were cameras or mirrors, if anyone could see her naked body.”
I brought up only that passage of Kunz’s account of the arrest to Mulye as I didn’t understand at that point in our interview the arrest had taken place on the same day as the altercation and that Mulye couldn’t talk about either the altercation or being taken into custody. Mulye, however, upon hearing my recollection of what Kunz had said about the arrest, objected to the characterization that any officer had felt shame, as even Mulye couldn’t say that they had. Despite possible points of contention between Kunz’s account of the event and Mulye’s, I believe I still have a general sense of what happened during the altercation. I could be wrong about specific details, but my takeaway is that Mulye behaved not unlike she had in the video where she advocated for a stranger. Mulye’s son was more or less trapped inside the minivan, being yelled at by the bus monitor to put his mask on or get out of the minivan. Mulye petitioned the bus monitor to allow her to deal with her son. After telling Mulye to get off the bus, the bus monitor advanced toward Mulye, and Mulye attempted to push her away.
As far as whether or not it was in the bus monitor’s character to advance in a threatening manner, again, I refer to deleted posts from the bus monitor’s Facebook wall as provided to me by Kunz. While the support of the “defund the police” movement doesn’t necessarily indicate violent tendencies, a comment on the bus monitor’s Facebook wall over a graphic critical of law enforcement read:
“Burn it all to the ground and start new. It’s the only way.”
Another comment on the bus monitor’s wall, followed by three laughing emoji faces, over a graphic complimentary to ANTIFA read:
“I AM ANTIFA Go cry about it snowflake”
I was also interested while speaking to Mulye in the circumstances surrounding the video I’d seen of her at the school board meeting. She told me that while she had been invited to the meeting by Kunz, she only spoke about her personal experiences and was not thinking in terms of the larger concerns of the group Moms for Liberty of Wayne County, New York. This is important because the school superintendent made an accusation during the speech. Mulye recounted the school board meeting:
“That was the first time I ever attended a school board meeting. I went there that day to speak up to explain how (son’s name removed) has been incredibly suicidal as a huge part of not being able to see other people’s faces and wearing the mask himself, so I had spoken up about that. They refused to allow more than five speakers, fifteen minutes total, and this mom started to leave, crying. I didn’t know the woman. I kind of recognized her face, but I didn’t know her name or anything about her, and I saw her leaving. She was crying; she was hysterical; she was very upset.”
Mulye made the somewhat unconventional move of approaching the stranger with an offer of help. Mulye continued speaking about the school board meeting:
“… and I saw her leaving, crying with that notebook in her hand and just felt myself grab my three-year-old and walk down the hall, and I said, ‘You deserve to speak. You have the right to speak for whatever you’re here to say.’ And she said, ‘I need to protect my child,’ and so I walked her back into the room, and I went up there with her, and I said, If you need me, I’m here, and he (Superintendent Van Scoy) came up, and he started telling her, ‘You’re being used as a tool for these people’s agenda.’ I don’t know what agenda they had. I had no idea what he was talking about. I came to speak about my son, about him being suicidal over wearing a mask. So this mother was up there speaking, and he’s saying all these ill things of her, and she was up there crying. I had no idea what she was saying or what she had been prepared to say, but I felt that I needed to protect her and defend her, so I just finished reading her speech.”