A group of Texas parents is calling on state officials to “unmuzzle” Texas kids and fighting back against local school district mandates requiring students to be masked all day while in class or participating in school activities.

The school mask mandates are supposed to mitigate the spread of the Chinese coronavirus—a benefit some doctors dispute.

But Unmask Texas, a nonprofit organized by parents to fight the mandates statewide, says the mandates are not only illegal but also harmful and abusive to children.

“Our children’s mental and physical health are being adversely impacted,” reads the group’s website. “Our mission is to use any and all legal means necessary to unmuzzle our children.”

Serena Ashcroft, a McKinney mom who’s become an outspoken advocate for public school students since COVID closures and mandates began, is helping organize the effort.

“The stories I am hearing from parents every day are heartbreaking,” Ashcroft said. “I never thought I would be involved in a grassroots organization across the State of Texas to help our children, but it is the most important work right now. All across our state, our children are suffering in a variety of ways.”

“Schools in Texas can’t continue to hide behind the mandate when they see and know the harm that is happening to our children,” she added. “We have over 150 cases of physical and emotional harm so far. I have never seen so many parents engaged and angry about what is happening to our children and their education. We are organizing fast, and these districts better reverse course soon.”

Ashcroft and others have organized online (a Facebook group has over 4,600 members), filed complaints with local and state education officials, spoken at school board meetings, and are considering a lawsuit to stop the mandates.

They say parents have “asked, begged, and pleaded with” their local school districts and the Texas Education Agency, which oversees public school systems across the state, to follow existing laws and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s July 2 Executive Order GA-29, which specifically exempts children under 10 years old from wearing a face covering in any public entity.

Public health guidelines issued by TEA say schools are “required to comply with the governor’s executive order regarding the wearing of masks” but add that “school systems may require the use of masks or face shields for adults or students for whom it is developmentally appropriate.”

Unmask Texas says wearing masks is not “developmentally appropriate” for children under 10, which is why the governor’s order exempts them, and that compelling kids to wear masks to attend school is an overreach of school districts’ authority and tramples parental rights.

“Whether it’s a nursing home ban or mask edict in schools, the problem is that the government agencies are using the excuse of a new virus to ignore stakeholder input in making rules,” attorney Warren Norred, who is advising the group, told Texas Scorecard. “No one would say that mask use should be used to reward or punish students, but that’s happening.”

Ashcroft has helped form a homeschooling group in McKinney and is encouraging parents to homeschool until state and local officials take the mask mandate off of Texas school kids.

Citizens who want the children of Texas to be unmuzzled can sign an Unmask Texas petition for their county and school district.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.