Amid an overheated debate about mask mandates in Texas schools, one parent assaulted a teacher by tearing a mask off her face, Eanes Independent School District Superintendent Tom Leonard said in a statement on Tuesday.
Texas has once again emerged as a hotspot for coronavirus, with multiple hospitals reporting shortages of ICU beds. Nonetheless, Governor Greg Abbott, who was recently diagnosed with a breakthrough case of Covid-19, has devoted considerable energy in recent weeks to banning mask mandates. Some local officials – including Travis County, where the Eanes ISD is located – have defied his executive order, making mask-wearing mandatory in public schools.
“The last few days leading to the start of school have been a whirlwind of information and action from governors, attorneys general, judges, mayors, superintendents and even principals,” Leonard said. “While many may not agree on the particulars (i.e., masks or no masks), we all want students to be safe and we all should treat each other respectfully.”
Some parents have physically and verbally attacked teachers about the masks, he said, adding that this type of behaviour would not be tolerated.
“A parent physically assaulted a teacher by ripping a mask off her face, others yelling at a teacher to take off her mask because they could not understand what the teacher was saying while her face was covered,” he said.
The incidents illustrate the increasingly fraught debate around mask rules in the state even as kids return to in-person classes. The latest nationwide surge in Covid-19 cases, propelled by the delta variant, has affected more children than ever before. To date, no one under the age of 12 may be vaccinated from the coronavirus.
Leonard called on parents to show courtesy towards school staff, whom he described as being “on the front lines of this pandemic.”
“Please, I am asking everyone to be kind…do not fight mask wars in our schools,” he said.