Longview ISD’s Board of Trustees meeting Monday evening drew a crowd of about two dozen people, but only a handful spoke and fewer still raised their objections against the district’s mask mandate.
Longview ISD implemented a requirement for people to wear masks on its campuses effective Aug. 23, when the number of COVID-19 cases in students and staff began to rise after school began. About the time the mandate was issued, the district reported 155 active cases in students and staff. On Monday, there were 47 active cases reported in the district.
Jessica Lowery, the parent of a Longview ISD student, was one of the attendees who went inside the meeting — although she spoke without wearing a required mask — while others stayed outside the room.
Lowery said she was grateful for her constitutional right to be at the meeting to address her concerns about the mask mandate.
“I’m not here tonight to make threats or to belittle anyone,” Lowery said before explaining that she has seen studies that show masks are ineffective at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“I don’t know if the board is taking into consideration the many studies that have proven that the types of masks that our children are wearing — forced to be worn — do not protect you from a virus,” Lowery said.
She said her daughter, who is a senior at Longview High School, has been “broken out from ear to ear” all year because of the masks and said they make it difficult for people “who may have hearing disabilities, learning disabilities.”
Camdyn Fortman, a 10-year-old student at Bramlette Elementary School, was outside the board meeting with his family ready to speak about how he said the masks are affecting him at school.
Fortman said he did not know he had to sign up beforehand and was therefore not able to speak.
“If we didn’t have a mask, it would be so much easier because I would be able to hear more, and it would just look like everyone is more free,” Fortman said.
Billy Hackler spoke during the meeting about a couple of issues that were not related to COVID-19 but also said he did not understand “why we decided to break the law and enforce mask mandates.”
The Texas Attorney General has filed multiple lawsuits across the state seeking to prevent Longview ISD and other districts from enforcing mask mandates because the state maintains they're violating the executive order Gov. Greg Abbott issued earlier this year prohibiting local officials from issuing mask orders.
Another speaker, Stephen Fierbaugh, who identified himself as someone who has been researching the local COVID-19 cases in Tyler and Longview ISDs and whose work appears in the Tyler Loop, praised the board for its decision to require masks.
“Your actions prevented at least 128 cases of COVID-19 among students and staff, which would have occurred if you stayed with your original strategy,” Fierbaugh said as the first speaker after two others who had put their names in to speak passed on their time.
In a statement issued before the meeting, the district said the number of new cases of COVID-19 has reduced significantly since the mask mandate went into effect.
“After the 1st week of school, when our parents and staff weren’t using masks, we were entering 15 to 20 positive cases per day, but the rate slowed down significantly after the mask mandate,” the district said. “During these last few weeks we’ve been entering 3 to 6 positive cases per week. We have had these results because our families and community have worked hand in hand with us and they have done their part in preventing the virus from spreading at a faster pace.”
The Longview ISD Board of Trustees also approved creating a remote learning program and asynchronous instructional plan during the meeting. The board meeting agenda can be found .