A Texas teacher recorded herself tearfully comparing the lack of a face mask mandate at her school to an impending school shooting in a TikTok that went viral over the weekend.
Jenny Gillis, a high school English teacher north of Austin, said this year she has had “my regular back to school anxieties,” but “this year there is this overshadowing apprehension.”
Gillis said she worries about things like who will take care of her children if she dies, how she will pay the medical bills if she is hospitalized, and how she will live with it if she gives the coronavirus to her students or her own children and they die.
“It is like we are trying to protect our students from a mass shooting that we know is coming but cannot do anything about,” the teacher said. “Except we can do something about it, it’s just that not everyone agrees that wearing a mask will stop the onslaught of students and staff who are likely to become sick and that makes me sick.”
Gillis said she has heard teachers discussing how to find affordable attorneys so they can write their wills in case they die.
“We are wondering what legal rights we have” regarding mask mandates, she said.
“We’re tired of fighting parents who feel like mask mandates violate rights,” she said, assuring parents that, “we would step in front of a bullet and die for you child.”
This Texas teacher is on the verge of tears talking about what it’s like working in a school that isn’t allowed to require masks. pic.twitter.com/hZYPX3z8xQ
— Kolleen (@littlewhitty) August 14, 2021
Some TikTok users suggested that Gillis’ fears might be overblown.
“My son spent all of last year in school 5 days a week with no mask mandate. Yes, there were cases. Nothing serious. No death. No hospitalization,” one TikTok user wrote in a comment.
“Maybe your son is the one who killed my friend Fawn who died in ICU from COVID in July,” Gillis replied.
On Twitter, where the video was shared by others, Gillis revealed that she is vaccinated.
“Yes, my entire family is fully vaccinated. I know I won’t die,” she wrote in a tweet.
Texas is seeing a spike in coronavirus hospitalizations this month as the new delta variant spreads in the state. In Austin-Travis County, the seven-day average of new hospitalizations is 76.
As of Monday, 52,931 people had died from the coronavirus in Texas since the start of the pandemic, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Only 59 of those deaths were people aged 19 years or younger.
A total of 349 children have died from Covid-19 in the last 18 months according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 1% of all pediatric deaths since the pandemic began.
Earlier this month, the superintendent of Austin Independent School District defied Governor Greg Abbott’s executive orders banning face mask mandates and announced a mask mandate for students and all others on school property when they start school on Tuesday. On Monday, Round Rock Independent School District just north of Austin flouted the governor’s orders as well, announcing a temporary mask mandate for students and staff.
Violating the governor’s mask mandate ban carries a fine of $1,000, but it is not clear how the fine would apply to school districts.