Williamson County sheriff to launch investigation following Aug. 10 school board meeting

A number of protestors were in attendance during the Williamson County Schools Board of Education meeting Aug. 10. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)
A number of protestors were in attendance during the Williamson County Schools Board of Education meeting Aug. 10. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)

A number of protestors were in attendance during the Williamson County Schools Board of Education meeting Aug. 10. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Law enforcement officials escorted people from room during the meeting. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)
Williamson County Sheriff Dusty Rhoades announced Aug. 12 his office will launch an investigation regarding behavior seen during the Williamson County Schools Board of Education special-called meeting on Aug. 10.

During the meeting, tensions were high as parents called for the board to vote against requiring masks for children. At several points during the meeting, board Chair Nancy Garrett called for order amid multiple interruptions and outbursts as the board deliberated the requirement. Law enforcement officials were present during the meeting and were asked to escort individuals from the room when outbursts became too frequent.

The board ultimately voted 7-3 to approve mask requirements for elementary school students and staff through at least Sept. 21.

Following the hourslong meeting, several parents and residents—who were unable to attend the meeting indoors due to capacity limits—stood outside chanting "No more masks" and threatened legal action against board members. According to video circulated on social media, some individuals blocked cars from leaving the parking lot while yelling at individuals wearing masks as well as district officials.

Rhoades issued a statement regarding the investigation.

"In law enforcement, we have to constantly strike a balance between maintaining the peace while respecting the rights that citizens have for free expression, even when the expression is unpleasant or even hostile," Rhoades said. "When expression crosses over into behavior that is violent, law enforcement’s role is clear, and the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office will intervene to address those criminal acts when observed or when they are brought to our attention. There needs to be a more civil discourse at public meetings and elsewhere, and we will continue to work with other elected officials and community leaders to help strike that balance. We do take our obligation to protect our citizens very seriously, and I am always open to suggestions about how we can do a better job."

The meeting drew national attention as well. In a press briefing Aug. 12, President Joe Biden commented on reports of the protests In Williamson County, citing the need to support local health officials who are working to keep up with the growing COVID-19 cases in the county and state.

During the public comment session in the meeting, a number of individuals spoke in favor of masks in schools, many of whom were health care professionals.

"As they walked out, these doctors were threatened," Biden said. "[They're] doing their best to care for the people who refuse to get vaccinated, and unvaccinated folks are being hospitalized and dying as a result of not being vaccinated. To the mayors, school superintendents, educators, local leaders who are standing up to the governors politicizing mask protection for our kids, thank you."
By Wendy Sturges
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.


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