A father in Texas stripped down to his underwear during a school board meeting to argue for the institution of a mask mandate.
James Akers, the father of a high school student in the Dripping Springs Independent School District west of the state capital of Austin, used his 90 seconds to speak at the 23 August meeting to urge the district to institute mask protocols in schools, despite the inconvenient nature of wearing masks.
“I do not like the government or any other entity, just ask my wife, telling me what to do,” Mr Akers said as he took off his shirt and jacket. “But, sometimes, I’ve got to push the envelope a little bit, and I’ve just decided that I’m going to not just talk about it, but I’m going to walk the walk.”
“At work, they make me wear this jacket. I hate it. They make me wear this shirt and tie. I hate it,” he said.
“On the way over here, I ran three stop signs and four red lights,” he added. “I almost killed somebody out there, but by God, they’re my roads, too. So I have every right to drive as fast as I want to, make the turns that I want to. I got over here to the school today, and the parking lot was full, and I decided I was going to park wherever the hell I wanted to, which, in this case, happened to be a handicap spot,” he said and removed his pants, garnering cheers and boos from the surrounding crowd.
“It’s simple protocol, people. We follow certain rules for a very good reason,” Mr Akers told the school board wearing just his underwear.
Masks are currently optional in the district and Mr Akers was urging the school board to institute a mask mandate. He said he has had three children go through their schooling in the district, where he has lived for 15 years.
Board president Barbara Stroud used her gavel to restore order amid the noise in the room.
“Mr Akers I understand — I believe you’re a swimmer — but if you wouldn’t mind putting your pants back on for a comment, that would be appreciated,” Ms Stroud said.
Two police officers approached Mr Akers, who simply gathered his clothes and walked back to his seat, fist-bumping one of the officers as he went.
The school district’s health protocol said as of 6 August that masks are optional in schools, although the board said on 16 August that it would be recommending mask-wearing on campus – but choosing not to go so far as to make it a mandate.
Mr Akers later told KXAN that he “stripped in front of the whole board to prove a point about social norms and what we do every day, with each other”.
“There are too many voices out there that I think are digging in for political reasons, and absolutely just not thinking about the common-sense decisions we make every day to comply with everything from driving down the road and being safe and courteous to other drivers to not parking in handicapped spots,” Mr Akers added. “All these rules that we’re given every day we follow because they make sense.”
According to The New York Times’ Covid tracker, 49 per cent of people are fully vaccinated in Hays County, Texas, which includes Dripping Springs.
Hospitalisations have jumped 36 per cent in the last two weeks, with 21 people dying in the county during that time. A total of 27,244 cases have been reported since the start of the pandemic – one in eight residents have been infected. August has been the month with the highest average of new cases in the county.
The test positivity rate is high in the county, meaning the number of reported cases could represent an undercount. The CDC recommends that vaccinated people also wear masks in the district because of the high spread of the virus in the area.
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