By Sahar Chmais
There were tears, boos, laughter and applause taking place in the Dripping Springs High School auditorium, but there was no play. Only parents pleading in front of the DSISD Board of Trustees regarding mask policies.
Nearly two hours of testimonies were presented, with many urging the board to remove the mask mandate before June 4. These parents stated the hardships masks have caused their children, such as physical and psychological issues. The school board listened and will not be waiting until June 4 to enforce Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order, which says that schools cannot force anyone to wear a mask after June 4.
The board unanimously approved that masks become optional beginning May 28, in advance of graduation and the start of summer school and camps.
Not all parents wanted the mask regulations lifted. Several took their allotted three minutes to discuss their children’s health conditions, like having an immunocompromised system, and how removing masks can be potentially life threatening.
In one case, a parent mentioned their child getting bullied for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Similarly, a parent began arguing with an audience member for using her child’s vaccine photo from Facebook to pass around a Dripping Springs neighborhood page slandering the choice to get vaccinated. This caused a ruckus and a brief argument between the two parents.
The board said that next year, they must find ways to stop bullying around choices to wear masks or get the vaccine.
Those against enforcing masks also made their case on how this has been so detrimental on their children.
Parents were very emotional standing at the microphones, citing incidents of kids feeling depressed and anxious because of the restrictions of the school year. One child told her mother the only time she can breathe in school without a mask is when she goes to the bathroom. Some young children are afraid to speak up when their masks are wet or dirty, so they stay in the sullied cloth all day. One child told the board she is afraid that if she slips the mask beneath her nose, her grades go from a 100 to a 50.
Several mothers cried while talking about their children’s experiences, both from the harm not masking can cause them and for the harm the mask is doing to their children’s mental wellbeing.
The encounter was not entirely civil with some parents booing those who are pro-mask wearing. The board tried to set order, but tensions and emotions were high through the discussion portion of the meeting.
The school district continues to record active COVID-19 cases, and most recently reported 12 active cases among children at Dripping Springs Elementary School and a total of 22 student cases across the district.
Parents against enforcing masks condemned the board for not acting sooner on easing mask restrictions and asked that the board members resign. Others praised their unwavering stance for listening to what the science says. They claimed that the precautions being taken have helped their children return safely to school.
Some added that there is a majority of parents who side with the board’s decision to have kept the masks this school year, and referred to the Dripping Springs sit out against masks, where 97 of over 7,400 district kids participated.
While the board cannot change Abbott’s June 4 deadline, parents and students will continue to have a choice on mask-wearing.