Texas school mask disputes between teachers and parents cause the superintendent to rule

The incidents occurred Monday at a “meet the teacher” event before the first school day Wednesday, Tom Leonard, superintendent of the Eanes Independent School District in Austin, told CNN. He said he wrote a letter to the public in response.

“Viously, obviously, there are people who feel on both sides of the masks across the country, and that’s no different than in my community,” Leonard told CNN.

“We had parents who, among many (but few), made it difficult, I think, for our teachers to do their job.”

One case concerned a masked teacher and a father who were repeating aloud, “I can’t understand you if you don’t take off that mask,” Leonard said, and the teacher felt uncomfortable and reported it.

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“In another case, a parent made the reckless decision to physically remove the teacher’s mask and that is not acceptable,” he said. “The teacher felt extremely uncomfortable. A director of the building took care of the situation. Fortunately he was close.”

No charges have been filed, a decision that would be up to the teachers, Leonard said. But it puts teachers in an awkward situation, because they want to maintain a good relationship with their students ’families.

The superintendent said that if incidents were repeated, they could file a restraining order to keep parents off campus.

The superintendent felt he needed to say something

“We had more administrative conversations and I felt I had to say something,” Leonard said.

The letter described the incidents and reiterated the county’s position on masks in schools.
“Unless the Texas Supreme Court finally rules that order, it is replaced by an executive order from the governor, the Travis County order currently requires masks at all schools in Travis County,” the letter said.

“Regardless of where the laws land, for the good of the community during this stage of the pandemic, we will follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which” recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. “

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“The kids are watching what we do and we need respect,” Leonard told CNN about the letter. “We leave the mask wars out of schools. You want to fight these wars, fight them elsewhere, but don’t stick with the teachers. Right now they have a hard enough job.”

Mask warrants may not be the real problem

However, Leonard regretted that it is not the problem of the mandates of the masks that is the problem, but that he enforces them.

“What do (teachers) do if a child refuses to wear a mask? Suspend them? Suspend them for how long? Now, last year we had the authority (the Texas Education Authority) to really say no. you want to wear a mask, you will be away. We had that ability and authority. Now I don’t have that authority, “he told CNN.

All the district can do is highly encourage the use of masks, Leonard said. About 90-95% of their elementary school students wear masks. In high schools, he estimates that 50-60% wear masks.

“We will try to do everything we can to help our doctors and nurses get over this wave and an upcoming wave if it comes, but we will keep things as normal for children as we can, and it will be an oasis for children,” he said.

CNN’s Rosa Flores and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.