Gov. Abbott’s pandemic “bill of rights”

Before announcing his parental “bill of rights” for public education at a charter school in Lewisville, Gov. Greg Abbott reminded everyone of a parental right he already had issued – his order giving parents the right to potentially expose their children and their children’s teachers and classmates to a deadly disease every time they go to school.

Of course, he didn’t use those words exactly, but that was the effect of what he was talking about when he touted his order, still in effect during the current COVID surge, prohibiting school districts from requiring students and employees to wear protective masks.

A fairly large audience of adults and students applauded. Best I could tell from my livestream view, no one, including the governor, was wearing a mask, and no one was social distancing. The event, it should be noted, occurred during a record-breaking week for new confirmed COVID cases in Denton County, where Lewisville is located. Nearby Dallas County also was being hammered with a COVID surge.

For all the fanfare, the governor’s parental “bill of rights” was little more than a clip job of rights that public school parents already enjoy under current law.

More importantly to Abbott, though, the event was another campaign stop on the way to a Republican primary, where blind ideology trumps not only good government but also common-sense health concerns — except, maybe, the health concerns of the governor himself.

Abbott already has tested positive for COVID at least once, and I am sure he is fully vaccinated and boosted. I also am sure he and his handlers aren’t foolhardy enough not to take some precautions with his health when he is on the road. Maybe members of his security detail have to be vaccinated and/or tested regularly. Maybe similar requirements had even been imposed on the crowd in Lewisville, although that seems more doubtful.

But caution and selfless personal restraint are not the message that the governor wants Republican primary voters to hear as he continues to brag about his orders banning mask and vaccine mandates. His message to his voters – his pandemic “bill of rights,” you could say – is that someone’s right to get sick and infect others, even in a public school classroom or on a school bus, is more important than someone else’s right to try to stay healthy.

Clay Robison


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