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Texas School District Found a Loophole in Greg Abbott’s Mask Mandate Ban, Adds Masks to Its Dress Code

A young student wearing a mask sits and listens in class

Texas’ Greg Abbot is among the governors who have introduced a ban on mandating masks (or vaccines) in schools or private businesses. But at least one school board has found a loophole to that order by adding masks to its official dress code.

Some school districts have already made the decision to defy Abbott’s orders and are implementing a mask mandate in an attempt to keep the largely unvaccinated student body (as well as the teachers and staff) safe during a deadly pandemic. However, in Texas and other states, those districts are either forced or choosing to offer an option for parents to opt their children out of having to wear masks.

Over in Tennessee, one mother took issue with students’ ability to opt-out of mask mandates but not the school’s dress code. In a now-viral email, she wrote that her daughter’s school’s dress code is “misogynistic and detrimental to the self-esteem of young women.”

“In light of the opt-out option related to the recently announced mask mandate, I can only assume that parents are now in a position to pick and choose the school policies to which their child to be subject,” she writes, adding that since “the school’s dress code policy does not align with my belief system,” which consists of “a strong commitment to feminist ideals,” she intends to “opt out of this policy and send my daughter to school in spaghetti straps, leggings, cut offs, and anything else she feels comfortable wearing to school.”

We’ve been having this conversation since this time last year, when schools decided masks were a “personal choice” with “no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them,” as if generation after generation of girls weren’t used to having their outfits constantly policed.

Now the board of the Paris Independent School District, a small school district in northeast Texas, has added masks to its official dress code, writing “the Governor does not have the authority to usurp the Board of Trustees’ exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the district.” Since Abbott’s order doesn’t mention anything about suspending Chapter 11 of the Texas Education Code, the board is within its rights to “amend its dress code.”

For as long as there have been school dress codes, girls have been told that the rules are for their own good and (obviously more importantly) the good of their (straight male) classmates—to create a safe, distraction-free learning environment. Well, since a deadly, highly contagious disease is far more unsafe and distracting than shoulders or thighs, it’s nice to see a dress code actually doing what it purports.

(via Brian Tyler Cohen on Twitter, image: Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.