In an ideal world, children would be able to look up to parents—and adults in general—to learn how to behave in the world with respect, grace, and empathy. Unfortunately, adults here in the United States struggle on all fronts despite living through a global pandemic. We’ve covered countless instances of grownups losing it over being asked to wear a mask in stores and restaurants, as well as incidents when people became physically violent over it. With students returning to the classroom, it seems that some parents have lost all sense of control and are literally assaulting teachers over masks.
Daily Kos recently covered the California parent who allegedly attacked an elementary school teacher after witnessing his daughter leave her first day of school wearing a face mask. As reported by local outlet FOX 7 Austin, a parent in Austin, Texas has allegedly ripped a face mask off of a teacher’s face during a back-to-school event, while others yelled at a different teacher to remove her mask, claiming they weren’t able to understand her while she wore it. The district has not clarified which school the teachers taught at or which grade levels.
Attacking—whether verbal or physical—any person is obviously unacceptable, period. It’s especially shocking given that so many people have lamented the difficulties teachers (and fellow school staff, like janitors and cafeteria workers) have faced while trying to navigate the pandemic. Many in the U.S. have taken on a narrative that stresses the importance of thanking teachers for their efforts and sacrifices when it comes to creating a sense of stability for young people—and then, apparently, there’s no problem assaulting teachers over trying to protect themselves, or even simply trying to follow the guidelines established by their employers.
This particular Texas school district, Eanes Independent School District (ISD), is following orders from Travis County in recommending masks for all in the school. Unfortunately, the school district does not have any route for enforcing mask-wearing rules but does ask for students, teachers, visitors, and other staff to wear masks while indoors regardless of vaccination status.
"Mandate or no mandate, law or no law, governor or no governor, county judge or no county judge, superintendent or no superintendent - children and adults in our schools are doing what they believe is best for themselves and our community," Dr. Tom Leonard, Eanes ISD Superintendent wrote in a letter to the community."
Leonard stressed that wearing masks in school is especially important, given that “medical personnel are under extreme pressure.” He also praised students and teachers for masking up. We know that cases in Texas have been skyrocketing, with some hospitals reporting that they’re running out of ICU beds, and state officials are requesting mortuary trailers from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as they brace for deaths. Four districts have temporarily closed in-person learning in schools, specifically due to virus outbreaks this academic year already.
With so much chaos and inconsistency, it’s almost easy for literal violence to become background noise amid all the other COVID-19 related stories. But violence is not acceptable, especially not when we’re potentially exposing it to young, impressionable people who are also surviving a new and traumatic situation and are looking to adults for guidance.
Thankfully, Leonard seems to agree that neither physical nor verbal assault over masks is acceptable. "This type of behavior will not be tolerated in Eanes ISD,” Leonard wrote about the assault. “Our staff are on the front lines of this pandemic; let’s give them some space and grace.” In his plea to the community, he added that he’s asking everyone to be “kind” and not to “fight mask wars in our schools."
In a video interview with KVUE, Leonard stressed that he’s going to respect people whether they’re wearing a mask or not, but “if my teacher’s wearing a mask, no one should be touching my teachers.”
This sentiment really should go without saying and is the baseline standard for basic decency, but with anti-mask hysteria flooding some parts of the nation, it really does need to be repeated time and time again.
You can check out an interview with Leonard, as well as a teacher in the district, below.