Leander ISD parents protest mask mandate

A group of protesters gathered in front of the Leander ISD administration building Wednesday with a clear message. 

They are not only against the school district's new mask mandate, but also want Superintendent Bruce Gearing to resign because he is defying the governor's executive order.

"We cannot live in fear, the rest of our lives, wearing masks. It’s unsustainable," said protest organizer Marcia Watson.

From the administration building, the group moved to U.S. 183. This protest, according to Crystal Clendennen, is for her children.

"My 8 year old has a speech impediment, and has been in Speech Therapy for 2 years, its very important for him to see who is speaking to him, and see how their mouths are forming their words, so he can learn to speak properly," said Clendennen.

A similar protest took place Tuesday night at Eanes ISD where a group showed up when administrators announced a mandate. It came after backing off an earlier one when the state Supreme Court upheld the governor's ban in Dallas and San Antonio.

Violating the mask mandate at Eanes ISD and Leander ISD is somewhat problematic. Students who refuse to wear a mask will not be immediately suspended or kicked out of school.

"Our principals are doing their best. We are between a rock and a hard place," said Corey Ryan, chief information officer with Leander ISD.

Parents can opt out their kids. By noon Wednesday, nearly 3,000 students districtwide had done so. For now, peer pressure seems to be the only enforcement tool available.

"We realize that masks have become this partisan issue in our community, we are trying our best to keep schools open," said Ryan.

Viral outbreaks on LISD campuses last year were managed by using mask rules, quarantines and online classes. Opinions on what to do now are as divided as the mask debate.

"If they feel, as though, a surgical mask or a cloth mask they are buying from HEB, or Costco is going to protect them, their children, that is their prerogative, feel free, believe it, trust it, keep sending your kids, but you need to understand that my freedom and my choice to send my child without a mask that needs to be upheld," said Jonathan Szedeli.

Amie Langlais told FOX7 her kids are back in person this year because of the mask mandate. "I say, if you don’t want to wear a mask and you don’t want to keep everyone safe, then you should be the one to stay at home," she said.

The new mask rule for Langlais is comparable to the school dress code. She doesn't expect it to be the new norm. "I'm just saying, for now, until all kids of all ages can be vaccinated, this is what we need to do to keep everyone happy and safe, and healthy. And keep our schools open too," said Langlais.

The next Leander ISD school board meeting is Monday. At that time the board will consider a formal resolution to reinforce the superintendent's mask mandate and will also consider the District's health response protocols.

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