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Sunday, January 23, 2022
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Mask Requirement Sparks Controversy at Local School Board Meeting

Education

Attendees opposing the mask requirement stand together at the Dallas ISD board meeting. | Image from Alexandra Rhone/The Dallas Express

The controversial topic of mask requirement was a focal point at the Dallas Independent School District’s School Board meeting in December.

Dallas residents gathered at a DISD School Board meeting to share their opinions on policy, many of them choosing to spend their three minutes discussing the mask requirement that Dallas ISD has since extended.

A group of people from Dallas who are in stark opposition to the mask requirement at local schools were among those in attendance.

One woman, Allyson Raskin, handed out flyers with a QR code that links to maskscience.org, which offers a list of alleged peer-reviewed studies that assert masks are neither helpful nor safe.

Raskin appeared to be the primary organizer of her group of attendees. The group had coordinated before the board meeting, and Raskin handed out stickers to those participating as they entered the room. The stickers read, “United We Stand.”

Part of their coordination also involved all group members standing as a fellow member was speaking at the microphone.

Also in attendance were two especially passionate individuals, not affiliated with Raskin’s group, who made their opinions known.

In the first twenty minutes of the meeting, a man and a woman were removed for being disruptive before the time came for the public forum. Initially, the man spoke loud and aggressive comments toward a member of the building staff, who had removed his mask to take a sip of water.

He called across the room to the staff member, saying, “Where’s your mask, sir?” in an accusatorial tone. When the staff member replaced his mask, the man said in a purposefully condescending tone, “Good boy.”

A few minutes later, the man and woman were removed after the woman pulled her mask down and refused to replace it. When asked by an officer to pull her mask back up, she accused him of discrimination. The man accompanying her came to her defense, and the two of them continued to argue with the police officer before being asked to leave.

When the couple refused to exit, a second officer approached them to assist in their removal. The man stood and pulled down his mask, getting very close to the officer’s face, and yelled vulgar and profane comments, causing the two officers to begin herding the civilian couple from the room.

As the couple was escorted out, the man yelled that he had not done anything wrong, asserting he was protected by “the governor’s rules and the law.” At the same time, the woman continued to voice her displeasure at the discrimination she felt was occurring.

In their last few moments in the room, the man called the policeman ushering them out the door a “Nazi” in a string of obscenities. The man continued to yell belligerently in the hall, still audible to those within the meeting room. He was escorted from the premises in handcuffs.

Once that incident had passed, the board meeting proceeded. In the public forum, folks from both sides of the spectrum in the mask debate professed their opinions on the matter, albeit more civilly.

Allyson Raskin spoke during the public forum to express her displeasure with the mask requirement in Dallas schools. She opened by introducing herself, followed by, “You may be familiar with my name because sadly I am suing you in both state and federal courts right now.”

Raskin listed numerous reasons for her opposition to the mask rule. As a mother of two students in Dallas ISD schools, she said she had to pull her son out of his public school because COVID policies made him so anxious he could no longer attend there. He is now enrolled in a private school.

Raskin also mentioned her daughter had been denied a week of education because a student had sat near her in class and later tested positive for COVID.

Mostly, Raskin lamented the negative psychological effects she says masks have on children. Aside from the physical drawbacks like staff and respiratory infections or acne, Ally described what she says is a profound change in children’s quality of life. According to her, there has been a “fivefold increase in suicide rates since the mask policy started.”

She also says masks keep children from being able to read people’s facial expressions, and therefore their emotions, thus taking a toll on their humanity.

Raskin also emphasized that Dallas ISD Superintendent Hinojosa’s decision to impose a mask requirement was illegal. She states that it circumvented the Open Meetings Act and scolded the board for not demanding that the decision be voted upon. This allegedly unlawful act is the one that elicited her lawsuit.

She also noted a better approach to executing COVID safety measures in schools would be “installing HVAC systems that clean the air and reduce COVID by greater than ninety percent.”

“If you just implemented these strategies, you wouldn’t have to harm any children in the process, and it would actually make schools safer,” she posited.

Notably, she also accused the board of hypocrisy, citing an incident where, according to her, the members huddled closely together at a previous board meeting and removed their masks to take a picture.

“To say you are following the CDC, FDA, or NIH is a joke at this point. They don’t follow their own science. It’s clear that you’re following the ESSER Funding and the political theatre instead of what’s best for our children,” she declared, to the sound of applause.

On the other side of the debate, veteran educator Chrisdya Houston was the last to speak. Houston serves as an executive board member of Alliance AFT, a union that strives for equal opportunity and high-quality public education.

“I wanted to say thank you again to our Superintendent [and] the Board of Trustees for continuing the mask mandate throughout the district because they help protect the lives of district employees and students,” she began.

Houston also emphasized the science of masks but maintained the opposite opinion of those that spoke before her. She alleged that masks protect against the spread of COVID.

She expressed a measure of distaste for those who argue against masks.

“The last thing I’d ever imagine is that I’d witness people advocating at this microphone for their children, their children’s classmates, and their children’s teachers to be less safe. Even after millions of people have caught COVID, many left with life-altering aftereffects, and even after over 800,000 people have died,” she commented.

She also cited a CDC study that said schools with no mask requirement were 3.7 times more likely to have a school-associated COVID-19 outbreak than schools that implemented a mask requirement early on.

Houston argued that masks should be worn for safety to prevent a resurgence of the virus across the city. She spoke of masks’ usefulness in creating a barrier against respiratory droplets.

She claims that masks are a “life-saving protective measure,” one that she would prefer districts leave in place than lift. In her opinion, lifting the mask requirement could mean more fellow residents could contract the virus and possibly die.

“To those who are fighting against mask mandates, please stop, and ask yourself, ‘Why am I putting this effort into making kids and educators less safe?’ and break loose from whatever it is,” she concluded.

After Chrisdya Houston spoke, the public forum ended, and the spectators dispersed.

In an interview exclusively with The Dallas Express following the meeting, Ally Raskin elaborated further on her feelings toward masks and those who believe they should be worn.

“There’s so much data out there… [but] there is so much censorship going on in mainstream media, it’s hard to find the real science,” she said.

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