Parents Clash Over COVID Protocols

Some organize to oppose masks; others sign petition in support of HPISD

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story had an infographic that contained a typo. It has been corrected. The full survey results are also linked at the bottom of this story.

Safety protocols at Highland Park ISD schools have been hotly debated since the start of the fall semester. 

People Newspapers conducted a survey of parents to determine how they felt about the measures.

Of 398 respondents, 321 said they were comfortable with the level of preparation the district has done for staff and student safety, and 302 said they believe masks and social distancing are important and expect their family and friends to take their use seriously.

However, as we previously reported, some parents and a group called Park Cities Parents Unite champions the Great Barrington Declaration and urged Highland Park ISD leaders to phase out COVID-19 safety protocols. The declaration, named for a small Massachusetts town, calls for lifting pandemic restrictions and allowing low-risk individuals to get infected and build immunity.

“We just gotta look that square in the eye and say it’s nonsense,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News.

Eric Swanson told the school board that wearing masks harms children’s mental health and development.

My kids come home happy every single day and aren’t complaining about masks, so I believe fully in their resiliency to these minor inconveniences.

Murphey Sears

“As you know, the governor’s order exempts children under 10 from wearing masks,” Swanson said. “Why are they being forced to wear masks?”

Other parents signed on to a document to support the tireless work the district continues to do that allows our children to safely attend school.”

Organizers say that document received 1,053 signatures.

Murphey Sears, chief development officer of the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center and a HPISD parent, said children are resilient and the pandemic provides learning opportunities for her children to show empathy to strangers.

“My kids come home happy every single day and aren’t complaining about masks, so I believe fully in their resiliency to these minor inconveniences. I am continually impressed with the thoughtfulness our teachers and administrators are exhibiting to continue to promote a love of learning mixed with typical childhood exuberance,” Sears said. “I believe values start and are reinforced at home which is why I frame this situation as a powerful learning opportunity for my kids to show empathy and develop kindness for strangers. And I applaud the school for allow those values to shine.”

UT Southwestern Medical Center associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine and HPISD parent Dr. Christy Turer said a COVID-19 vaccine is in the works, but, for now, policies Highland Park ISD has in place for safety protocols like social distancing are “warranted.”

“The rising rate of COVID cases in University Park vs. elsewhere in Dallas County, along with a second wave of the pandemic and upcoming flu season suggest non-pharmacological precautions for social distancing and safe work spaces at school are warranted,” Turer said in an Oct. 23 statement.

Dotty Rico, a student in the district, also supports safety protocols like masks.

“Mask up to show you care for others,” Rico said.

See the full results of our survey here.

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at [email protected]

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