Behind the mask

School board member speaks on lifting the district mandate

Although+the+district+lifted+the+mask+mandate%2C+teachers+and+students+are+still+urged+to+wear+facial+coverings+to+prevent+spreading+COVID-19+and%2For+quarantining.+

Rebekah Mann

Although the district lifted the mask mandate, teachers and students are still urged to wear facial coverings to prevent spreading COVID-19 and/or quarantining.

Rebekah Mann, Managing Editor

Members of the Board of Trustees voted 5-2 to lift the district-wide mask mandate after Texas Governor Greg Abott lifted the mandate for the state. The decision came into effect March 10, sparking both outrage and support from students and teachers alike.

The Comal Independent School District Board of Trustees is a single-member serving district, so the board members are elected via the residents of a geographical area. Board member Russel Garner serves the fourth section, the Smithson Valley feeder pattern.

“We’ve been receiving a lot of feedback supporting the [decision] and [going] against [it] as well.” Garner said. “There’s also some feedback [that] has to do with the short-notice timing.”

Following a student-led petition to bring back the mask mandate, and a walk-out at Canyon High School in protest of the ruling, there was speculation on whether the decision to lift the mandate would change.

“The administration might [reconsider changing the mandate] if [it] felt like the situation was to a point where it was going to impact keeping the schools open,” Garner said. “It certainly is something we’ll look at again, but as of right now, the decision has been made. But I do appreciate the fact that the kids were active [by] giving their voice in this issue.”

After the mask ruling was announced, students began reaching out to administration and teachers in an attempt to isolate themselves from those choosing not to wear a facial covering.

“If you’re uncomfortable for any reason, you can always talk to your teacher, and if you listen to the board meeting, one of the things we talked about was respect and everyone having respect for each other in this situation,” Garner said. “The level of betrayal is unfortunate because this issue is so polarizing across our nation, but we believe  that our students have respect for their teachers and vice versa, and that we can work through this together. That is very important going forward.”

The level of betrayal is unfortunate because this issue is so polarizing across our nation, but we believe  that our students have respect for their teachers and vice versa, and that we can work through this together. That is very important going forward.”

— Board member Russell Garner

Due to disagreements about masks amongst students, there are those facing pressure from their peers to continue wearing masks. This pressure has translated into bullying and even death threats over not doing so.

“We all have zero tolerance for bullying, and, unfortunately, at a large school like Smithson Valley, there’s always going to be some folks that don’t have the emotional maturity to treat others with respect,” Garner said. “All we can do is ensure that any student that is not following the rules, or is bullying, or anything like that are disciplined accordingly. I appreciate all the feedback I get; I just ask people to have extra grace for the teachers, and to treat each other with respect.”