Public Notice: Being Brave

School districts set to defy Abbott's political posturing

Public Notice: Being Brave

As reported elsewhere in this issue, Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde on Monday made the surprise announcement that AISD would implement a mask mandate for all school facilities, effective this week. Her move comes in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott's latest executive order, itself a shameless attempt to shore up his right flank ahead of next spring's primaries, public health be damned.

Prior to the announcement, dozens of impassioned parents and students spoke in support of a mask mandate at Monday's special called AISD Board meeting (not one spoke against). But few were more compelling than Caroline Sweet, a bilingual educator and 2011 AISD Teacher of the Year, now beginning her 17th year of teaching with the district. Here's her one-minute speech (the limit allowed for public comment) in its entirety.

"For many years, you've asked me to be brave. You've asked me to be brave as I practice getting 24 fourth-graders into a bathroom; you've asked me to locate anything in our hiding spot with which I might fight off an active shooter.

"You've asked me to be brave as I think about what would happen if there was some sort of extreme danger and my class was on the playground. I've discussed with kids how to run into the woods, to hide by the creek, all of us together, avoiding danger.

"You've asked me to be brave and come back to work during the pandemic after surgery and six months of chemotherapy for stage 3 cancer. And I have done it, and I will do it, and I will show up and get in that closet, and I will look for that path through the woods.

"Board members, you don't have to do these things. But just as I will be brave and think about how my body might shield children from danger, I ask that you be brave today. You know what you need to do to protect children. Do it. Implement a districtwide mask mandate and vaccine requirements for students and staff."

For the record, AISD is only requiring masks at this time, not vaccines. But with Dallas ISD already implementing its own mask mandate and the Houston ISD Board slated to take up a similar measure today, Thursday, after its superintendent likewise called for masks on Monday, it's likely that by week's end, all three of Texas' largest school districts will have taken a principled stand for student safety against the governor's order.

Is Abbott really ready to double down on kids' lives to protect his own political skin? We'll find out soon enough.

Your move, gov.


Pet Food Pantry at Austin Humane Society's future location: This recurring pet food giveaway for struggling pet parents has proved so popular that AHS has had to move it to their future home at 7625 N. I-35 (currently Red Rocks Church; parking lot entry off U.S. 183 eastbound access road). It's this Saturday, Aug. 14, 9am-noon, on a first-come, first-served basis; masks are required for all, regardless of vaccination status. See austinhumanesociety.org for more info.

Send gossip, dirt, innuendo, rumors, and other useful grist to nbarbaro@austinchronicle.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Public Notice, Stephanie Elizalde, Austin Independent School District, Austin ISD, Greg Abbott, school mask mandates, COVID-19, AISD Board of Trustees, Caroline Sweet, Dallas ISD, Austin Humane Society

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