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Eanes ISD requiring, but not enforcing, masks

In an email obtained by KVUE, the school district said it is “strongly encouraging mask wearing” instead of removing students who won’t wear one from class.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Eanes Independent School District is requiring students, staff and visitors to wear masks on campus, but principals and teachers are not required to enforce the mask mandate.

In an email to staff obtained by KVUE Wednesday, the district wrote that it is “strongly encouraging mask wearing” instead of removing children who won’t wear one from class.

“To that end, we concluded we will not put principals or teachers in the difficult position of enforcing the wearing of masks by removing children from class when those students want to learn,” the email said. “Likewise, local authorities indicate they also cannot assist us with enforcement of a mask mandate nor will they physically remove an individual from our campuses for not wearing a mask.”

RELATED: LIST: Local school district mask rules for school year

In the email to staff, the school district said the “vast majority of our students continue to wear a mask.” The district also said it is “fortunate” that it hasn’t had to close any grades, classes or activities due to COVID-19 this semester.

RELATED: LIST: Central Texas school closures due to COVID-19

Eanes ISD said it is following the Travis County order that requires masks be worn in schools. That order is currently not being challenged by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott or Attorney General Ken Paxton and is not under review by the Texas Supreme Court, according to the email.

However, Eanes ISD is on Paxton’s noncompliance list with Abbott’s executive order. The order states that no government entity, including school districts, can require or mandate masks.  

“Until we have a final ruling by the Texas Supreme Court, the only thing clear is that things are unclear,” the email said.

   

On Aug. 25, Eanes ISD decided it would separate masked and unmasked students. Starting Aug. 27, instead of suspending students or sending them home for not wearing a mask, students would receive a disciplinary violation noted on school records.

"Beginning Friday, Aug. 27, if a student does not wear a mask indoors on school property (including buses), campus staff and administrators will begin to address this in various ways, including providing and offering masks to students, reminders about wearing masks, addressing the issue confidentially, and having conversations with families," Eanes ISD said in a statement in August. "If such approaches are unsuccessful in changing the behavior, the student will be assigned to a location within the building where he or she will be supervised and provided assignments. These locations determined at the campus level could be a classroom, office and/or a library or commons location."

Two Eanes ISD parents are currently suing the district to end this policy and the mask mandate itself. The lawsuit was filed on Aug. 30.

There are exceptions to Eanes ISD’s current mask mandate. Face coverings are not required during outdoor activities, outdoor physical education, band, extracurriculars, while eating and drinking or for children with special needs.

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