Union Letter Calling on Gulf Coast School Districts to Implement Mask Mandates

Dear School District Trustees and Superintendents:

As leaders of Houston-area unions representing school employees and other working families in your districts, we urge you to implement mask mandates immediately to keep students and staff safe and prevent the community spread of COVID-19.

The Houston region is currently experiencing the most dangerous spike in COVID cases and hospitalizations since the beginning of the pandemic. Hospitals are filling up with unvaccinated people infected with the delta variant, with more and more young people finding themselves in intensive care units. Children under 12 are still not approved to take vaccines, and the state legislature has failed to fund remote learning.

Vaccinations are the surest way to combat the COVID pandemic, and we are thrilled to see school districts stepping up their efforts to get parents and eligible students vaccinated.

But given how quickly the delta variant is spreading, every effective tool must be utilized. Masking must be required to keep our students, their parents, and school employees safe when school begins this month.

The CDC, local and state public health officials, and the entire medical community have made it clear: Mask mandates help keep our kids, or co-workers, and our communities safe.

But instead of listening to public health experts, Governor Greg Abbott and the TEA are playing politics with our children’s lives. The Abbott administration has used the emergency public health powers it was entrusted with to block school districts from keeping our kids safe.

The latest guidance from the Texas Education Agency, issued in the midst of a massive spike in COVID cases, goes as far as to say schools don’t have to inform parents if a positive case is confirmed or launch contact tracing.

We applaud HISD Superintendent House’s proposal to require students, staff and visitors at all of HISD schools, buses and facilities to wear masks. With the weight of the entire medical community in support, this shouldn’t be a controversial stance. It’s the right thing to do.

We call on all Gulf Coast school districts to follow the guidance of the CDC and local public health agencies by issuing mandates for the wearing of masks in all schools, buses, and district facilities by students, staff, parents, and visitors.

The first and most important job of school leaders is to protect the health and safety of our students, school employees, and our communIty.

Governor Abbott and the TEA have shown that the safety of school communities is not their priority. They have failed the test of leadership and put people’s lives in danger.

You must now provide that leadership to save lives. You must be the responsible adults in the room when state officials refuse to.

As to consequences that may follow, remember what workers who join together in union know: In unity, there is strength.

Signed,

Jackie Anderson

President

Houston Federation of Teachers Local 2415

Hany Khalil

Executive Director

Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO

Shonda Below

President

Northeast Houston AFT Local 6568

Nikki Cowart

President

Cy-Fair AFT Local 6448

Candis Houston

President

Aldine AFT Local 6345

Glenda Macal

President

Fort Bend AFT Local 6198

Veronica Thibideaux

President

Alief AFT Local 6346

Melissa Turner Sanchez

President

Goose Creek AFT Local 6093

Wretha Thomas

President

Houston Educational Support Personnel Local 6315

Official account of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation.