In the misty haze of memory, I can’t recall if it was a mid-80s surge of mini-skirts or just an April heat wave that had everyone wearing shorts to school, but once upon a time, my alma mater, Madison High School, issued an edict requiring that the bottom half of our clothing reach to our knees. Naturally, i responded by rolling my blue jeans up to right below my knees and daring Assistant Principal Dan Barker to bust me. (Capris for Men, Madison, South Dakota, 1987—I always have been a fashion leader.)
But you know, if schools can mandate that kids cover their knees and shoulders and other sexy places to prevent an outbreak of boneritis, why can’t they require the covering of mouths and noses to prevent other more contagious hazards to public health?
Such is the thinking of the Independent (yeah, capitalize that word for this story) School District of Paris, Texas, which is defying covid-positive Governor Greg Abbott‘s prohibition on mask requirements by writing masks into its dress code:
The Board of Trustees is concerned about the health and safety of its students and employees. The Board believes the dress code can be used to mitigate communicable health issues, and therefore has amended the PISD dress code to protect our students and employees. The Texas 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. Nothing in the Governor’s Executive Order 38 states he has suspended Chapter 11 of the Texas Education Code, and therefore the Board has elected to amend its dress code consistent with its statutory authority [Paris ISD Board of Trustees, statement, in staff, “Paris, Texas School District Adds Face Masks to Dress Code; Defies Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Order,” CBS Dallas–Fort Worth 21, 2021.08.18].
Madison’s cover-your-knees rule was arbitrary and not particularly effective (three words: teenage boys… imagination). But today’s mask rules in Paris and elsewhere will prevent sickness and death, not to mention help keep kids and teachers in school in person. A majority of Americans recognize this plain scientific fact. Let’s hope more schools follow the example of Paris, Texas, and not Rapid City, South Dakota, in protecting their children and public health from both coronavirus and from overreaching, undereducated Republicans.