Dripping Springs ISD parents plan to sit kids out of school to protest district’s mask policy

Hays

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) — With less than a month left of school, some Dripping Springs ISD parents aren’t letting up on their push for the district to reconsider its mask policy. 

Some are planning to keep their kids out of school one day next week because of it. Parents are calling it a “sit-out” and are circulating a flyer on social media to bring attention to it.

Flyer circulating on social media explaining the "sit-out" to Dripping Springs ISD parents
Flyer circulating on social media explaining the “sit-out” to Dripping Springs ISD parents

The flyer reads, “Don’t send your kids to school. Don’t let them log on as virtual to be counted in attendance numbers. Email the registrar and state ‘My child is home today, because I don’t agree with the safety protocols at school, including requiring masks.'”

The “sit-out” will take place May 14.

KXAN spoke to a number of parents who said they’ll be participating.

They told KXAN they want to get the school board’s attention, as they feel their voices and opinions have been dismissed.

Still, there are a number of other parents who say they won’t be taking part.

Gymnastics practice is one of the only places 9-year-old Zoey Willis feels normal these days. 

“It’s really the only place I get to be myself, not wear a mask or anything like that,” Zoey said.

That’s just one reason why her mom, Monica Willis, is pulling her out of school next Friday to protest masks.

“If people are getting a little heated or emotional it’s literally because we’ve been trying to stand up for our students for months, and it’s exhausting,” Monica said.

9-year-old Townes Pharr, even if he doesn’t like masks, said, “It’s not really whether I like it or not — it’s whether it keeps people safe.”

So his mom Sharrah said their family won’t be a part of the sit-out. 

“Oh, he’s going to school,” Pharr said. “[The sit-out] almost makes me think, ‘are we on a reality TV show?’ This is so absurd and irresponsible.”

The Willis and Pharr families are clearly divided on the issue. But each stand by why they feel so strongly about their points of view. 

“Masks are only effective if worn appropriately,” Monica said. “And you know that small children… they constantly touch them, they drop them on the ground, they put them back on their face.”

Sharrah said she doesn’t think the sit-out sends a good message.

“We have a bigger picture, a bigger cause to live,” she said. “What are we teaching our children?”

Though school ends in just weeks, Monica said parents are just trying to put pressure on the district to give a choice for masks next school year. 

“It isn’t about being disrespectful to anyone,” she said. “We just want to feel like we’re being heard. We want to be a part of the decisions that are being made.”

The sit-out will fall on a day of STAAR testing for fourth and fifth graders. As of Wednesday night, the district’s online dashboard listed seven total active cases among students.

When KXAN asked the district for comment on the sit-out, a spokesperson said, “If a student misses school for whatever reason, an absence is recorded.”

KXAN also reached out last week after a group retained a lawyer threatening a lawsuit over the district’s mask policy. DSISD sent us this statement on the matter:

“DSISD’s mask protocols comply with the law and have been successful in re-opening school this year by keeping students, families and staff healthy and reducing the transmission of COVID-19.  DSISD remains steadfastly focused on protecting students and families and staff from illness and preventing further disruptions to peoples’ lives by minimizing the spread of COVID-19 that may lead to the closure of schools and cancelation of important end-of-the year school programs and activities. 

There is no ambiguity in DSISD’s authority to establish and enforce its mask protocols to protect and best serve its community. Governor Abbott unequivocally stated in Executive Order GA-34 that, “public schools may operate as provided by, and under the minimum standard health protocols found in, guidance issued by the Texas Education Agency.” The Texas Education Agency, the governing agency over public school districts, has issued guidance that states: “Every student, teacher, or staff member shall wear a mask over the nose and mouth when inside a school building, school facility, facility used for school activities, or when in an outdoor space on school property or used for school activities wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household…”  Five exceptions to this rule exist, which form part of the DSISD’s mask protocols. 

The district is in receipt of a law firm’s legal demand on behalf of anonymous individuals. In response, claims that the mask protocols are unlawful are groundless and not based on a correct interpretation of the law.”

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