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Texas parent 'physically assaulted' teacher and ripped mask off her face, superintendent says

Eanes Independent School District Superintendent Tom Leonard
Posted at 1:10 PM, Aug 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-19 11:19:54-04

The superintendent of an Austin, Texas-area school district says parents have "physically assaulted" and yelled at teachers in recent days because they were wearing masks.

In a letter to parents shared with KVUE-TV and the Austin American-Statesman, Eanes Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Tom Leonard said that one parent ripped the mask off a teacher's face.

"A parent physically assaulted a teacher by ripping a mask off her face, others yelling at a teacher to take off her mask because they could not understand what the teacher was saying while her face was covered," Leonard's letter read. "This type of behavior will not be tolerated in Eanes ISD."

The American-Statesman reports that no charges were filed in either incident.

Several Austin-area school districts have flip-flopped guidance on mask use in schools amid conflicting orders from the state and county governments.

In July, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning local municipalities, health agencies and school districts from instituting mask mandates. According to the American-Statesman, the Eanes School District was planning on starting the year with a mask encouragement in accordance with Abbott's order.

However, on Aug. 11, Travis County, which includes Austin, defied Abbott and ordered masks be worn in schools. Late last week, Eanes ISD said it would comply with the Travis County order until the matter was resolved in court.

In his letter to parents, Leonard clarified that while masks were required, the Travis County order does not allow the school to punish those who choose not to wear masks.

"We cannot legally apply consequences to a student or staff member who refuses to wear a mask. Even if we were to make masks part of our school dress code, the Travis County Order and particularly the Governor's Order do not permit enforcement," Leonard wrote.

Despite the rough start to the year, Leonard says he hopes tensions simmer in the coming weeks.

"Our staff are on the front lines of this pandemic; let's give them some space and grace. Please, I am asking everyone to be kind...do not fight mask wars in our schools," Leonard wrote.

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