Some teachers call out sick due to mask mandate controversy

Posted at 6:48 PM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 22:42:38-04

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (WTVF) — On the same day that elementary school students in Williamson County were supposed to come to school with masks, some teachers decided to not show up during a so-called ‘sick out.’

Assistant Superintendent Note on "sick-out"
Assistant Superintendent issues email on teacher sick-out in Williamson County, Tennessee.

Kati Wooten is a former middle school teacher and Williamson County Schools parent. She said for some teachers, if they ask for a mask exemption, they worry it will look like they're going against directives. Wooten said, "I don’t know the pressures that they’re facing, but I’m going to support them in their choice to do it.”

Other teachers feel stuck between following mask rules and meeting parental demands. "We all need to be able to vocalize our opinions with kindness and respect,” Wooten said, “And stop viewing things as us vs. them."

For Kati, she feels terrible that teachers are caught in the middle following a heated school board meeting where threatening comments were made outside.

"My youngest daughter is in 1st grade, and when my oldest had this teacher we went through a miscarriage and lost that baby at 16 weeks, and that angel of a human being helped my oldest daughter grieve through that and laminated a picture she drew of that baby and let her keep it on her desk,” Wooten said, “Like these are the people that are literally showing up for our kids every single day, and they should have the right to choose what they want to do with the masks.”

In an email, a district leader tells teachers that if they plan to participate in the 'sick-out,' they need to have a doctor's note. According to the district spokesperson, 121 employees were sick on Thursday compared to 64 on Monday. She noted that the number was not out of the ordinary.

Kati hopes teachers will know that they're appreciated during these times. “We love you, I’m so thankful for you, in your corner, I will support you if you want to wear a mask, if you don’t want to wear a mask," Wooten said.

President Biden also weighed in on the mask controversy in Williamson County. He called the school board heroes for requiring masks be worn by elementary school students.