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Parents weigh in on potential mask mandates in school districts

Some Texas districts are requiring masks for students despite a State order that prohibits it.

LEANDER, Texas — Just days before the start of school, some Texas districts including Austin ISD, are altering their safety policies, including requiring masks.

This violates an executive order signed by Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits mask mandates. KVUE checked with parents who differ on whether or not school districts should require masks, despite this order and why. 

Round Rock ISD (RRISD) parent Dustin Clark believes he and other parents have the right to make medical decisions for their children, which includes wearing a mask.

Clark has four children enrolled in RRISD, one of whom is under the age of 12. Last year, Clark explained his children followed all the safety protocols, but now that vaccines are available to a large population of people, it is important that parents have a choice, especially when it comes to children's emotional and social well-being.

"I think at the end of the day, it is the individual's responsibility that if they feel it's too dangerous for them, then they have to take measures to protect themselves. But there are others who don't believe it is as dangerous or want to engage in that risk," Clark said.

Clark supports virtual learning for families who are uncomfortable sending their children to school, but hopes districts do not continue disregarding the governor's orders by creating mask mandates.

"It is pretty troubling to see school districts defying those orders to force people to do stuff versus allowing them to have that freedom of choice," Clark added.

Over at Leander ISD, Patricia Avitia feels much differently for her children, who are both in elementary school. 

Last year, Avitia's children attended school virtually and were excited to get back in the classroom, but she does not know if she will send them back as long as masks are only an option.

"With no mask mandate in place, no safety protocols, no COVID tracing, those kinds of things are all out the window. So we want a safe learning option for all kids," she said.

On Tuesday, Leander ISD expanded virtual learning for more than 2,000 students in the district, giving parents more options. 

While Avitia believes that is a good stride forward, she wants her children to have the same opportunity to learn in-person like everyone else, while also knowing they are safe.

"At least until we get vaccines available for 12 and under, this is a vulnerable population right now. They don't have protection," she said.

Despite Gov. Abbott's executive order banning masks in public schools, Avitia has created a petition asking the LISD School Board to consider a mask mandate. It has collected 1,900 signatures as of Tuesday evening. 

"Wearing a mask isn't going to hurt anybody, but not wearing a mask could potentially hurt somebody. So are you willing to take that risk? I'm not," she said.

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