Parents protest against Austin ISD's mask mandate at schools

A group of parents gathered outside an Austin elementary school on Tuesday, demanding the school district end its mandatory mask policy. 

The group also called out top administrators who were recently photographed not wearing masks while at gatherings earlier this month. 

The protest happened outside of Baldwin Elementary School. It started as the school day was getting underway. A small group of parents held signs calling on Austin ISD to make its mask mandate optional. 

"The school districts all around us have gotten rid of their mask mandates. Yet, Austin ISD continues to force our kids to wear masks for eight hours a day," said Melanie Zoerner.

Melanie Zoerner told FOX 7 Austin she got involved after seeing what she considers to be a double standard. Pictures of several Austin ISD administrators, including the superintendent, were recently posted on social media. They were taken during a conference and the images show no one was wearing a mask or practicing social distancing.

"To see them flaunting their maskless meetings on social media. That's what lit the fire under us. Seeing those pictures of them at that conference in Dallas two weeks ago. That's what lit the fire under us. That's hypocrisy right there. And that is not fair. Parents are not going to stand for it anymore. That's why we're speaking out now," said Zoerner.

In a statement to FOX 7 Austin, an Austin ISD spokesperson noted that: "This conference was not on school grounds. The Superintendent and district administrators abide by and regularly exceed each facility's rules and expectations."

The mask regulation for Austin ISD is posted online and it states: "Wearing a face mask that covers the mouth and nose will be required for ALL students, staff, and visitors while on Austin ISD grounds and in AISD buildings."

The rule even remains in place for class pictures. 

"Oh, I was angry. I was like, Are you kidding me? My kids can't take off their masks for 30 seconds to smile for a picture. That's ridiculous. It's just so we can look back a couple of years from now and realize how ridiculous we were," said Zoerner.

The parents want Austin ISD to do what Round Rock and Leander are doing, encouraging the use of a mask but not mandating it. The concern is a change may not come until after spring break, and for parents, that is a month too long.

Mask mandate dropped in Round Rock Independent School District
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