UIL could punish schools for failing to require masks and social distance at football games

Football

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University Interscholastic League is warning school districts across Texas of possible sanctions if newly-released risk-mitigation guidelines are not being met at football games and other school-sponsored events.

The latest update comes after images and videos circulated the first weekend of high school football of people in stands failing to wear masks and/or social distance.

One of the first bullets in the latest release of guidelines explicitly states fan expectations for wearing face coverings:

“All employees, parents, visitors and students 10 years of age or older must wear face coverings or face shields upon entry to an area where UIL activities are being conducted and when not actively practicing or playing in the contest, unless an exception listed below applies.”

University Interscolastic League

Exceptions listed include people with medical conditions or disabilities, when eating or drinking, when swimming, when maintaining proper social distancing and any reason indicated under Executive Order GA-29.

In an email to KXAN Wednesday afternoon, the UIL confirmed that District Executive Committees and/or State Executive Committee can impose penalties following allegations of failing to adhere to risk-mitigation guidelines.

Penalties brought down by a District Executive Committee may include, but are not limited to, reprimands, public reprimands, forfeitures, disqualifications and suspensions for member schools.

Penalties brought down be the State Executive Committee could include a suspension for the member school from all specified UIL activities for a period up to three years.

The threat has perhaps already made an impact.

Schools like Burnet High, where very few spectators could be seen social distancing on Friday, have now placed green tape on the bleachers to remind people about safe social distances.

Families have mixed opinions about this oversight by the UIL.

Thomas Cameron, an AISD dad of two, said enforcing good behaviors from both students and spectators keeps the community safe and save lives.

“I don’t want to underplay how important sports are to our family, but I think human life has to be more important,” Cameron said. “We are talking about a lot more than just missing out on some games. And as tragic as that may be, it’s a lot more tragic to bring the virus home to grandmother or auntie who is immunosuppressed.”

For Ellie Lewis, a mom of five from Lockhart, the threat of an outbreak does not dissuade her opinion that students should be able to interact freely with one another and allowed to participate in all school activities without restrictions.

“It’s gone too far. We’ve taken this way too far,” Lewis said. “Don’t trap the kids to where what they love has now become a chore.”

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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