A Texas dad wanted to make a point about mask safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic, so he choose an unconventional way to shine some light on the issue: stripping down to his swimsuit.
The viral incident happened Aug. 23, 2021, during the public comment period of a Dripping Springs, Texas, school board meeting. Dripping Springs is a small community southwest of Austin. The dad, James Akers, who said one of his children is a high school student in the district, pulled the stunt to make the point that personal freedom aside, some protocols should be followed to protect public safety.
Akers’ commentary begins just after the 26-minute mark in the video below:
After introducing himself as a 15-year resident of Dripping Springs, and noting that he put three of his children through the school district, plus one current high school student, Akers began removing his clothes, stating:
At work, they make me wear this jacket. I hate it. They make me wear this shirt and tie. I hate it. On the way over here, I ran three stop signs and four red lights. I almost killed somebody out there, but by God, it’s my roads too so I have every right to drive as fast as I want to and make the turns that I want to. I got over here to the school today and the parking lot’s full, and I decided I was gonna park wherever the hell I want to, which in this case happened to be a handicapped.
As he took his pants off, Akers stated, “It’s simple protocol, people. You follow certain rules — we follow certain rules for a very good reason.” As he spoke, members of the audience laughed and cheered him.
“Mr. Akers, I understand — I believe you’re a swimmer — but if you would mind putting your pants back on for a comment, that would be appreciated,” school board president Barbara Stroud stated.
Akers complied but also left the microphone, as he had apparently made his point.
In an interview with Austin-based TV news station KXAN, Akers said he wanted to make the point by taking off his clothes because 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,” like driving safely and following the rules of the road.
Although masks have been shown to be an important measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19, anti-mask hysteria driven by online disinformation campaigns has been influential — with disastrous consequences. In Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott has banned mask mandates, pediatric ICUs have filled up with children sick with the highly contagious delta variant.
Board of Trustees – Agenda Review. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W0ztbX6mjg. Accessed 27 Aug. 2021.
“Dallas ISD Joins Suit Challenging Abbott’s Mask Mandate Ban as Fort Worth ISD Tries to Require Masks.” Dallas News, 26 Aug. 2021, https://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/2021/08/26/dallas-fort-worth-school-boards-to-discuss-next-steps-on-texas-mask-mandate-ban/.
Collins, Ben. “How QAnon Rode the Pandemic to New Heights — and Fueled the Viral Anti-Mask Phenomenon.” NBC News, https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/how-qanon-rode-pandemic-new-heights-fueled-viral-anti-mask-n1236695. Accessed 27 Aug. 2021.
“Dripping Springs Man Bares Thoughts on Mask Mandates at Heated School Board Meeting.” KXAN Austin, 24 Aug. 2021, https://www.kxan.com/news/local/hays/dripping-springs-man-bares-thoughts-on-mask-mandates-at-heated-school-board-meeting/.
Fieldstadt, Elisha. “North Texas Runs out of Pediatric ICU Beds amid Covid Surge.” NBC News, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/north-texas-runs-out-pediatric-icu-beds-amid-covid-surge-n1276783. Accessed 27 Aug. 2021.
Levin, Dan, et al. “Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas Has Tested Positive for the Coronavirus.” The New York Times, 17 Aug. 2021. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/17/us/greg-abbott-texas-covid-positive.html.
Svitek, Patrick. “Gov. Greg Abbott Bans Government Mandates on COVID-19 Vaccines Regardless of Whether They Have Full FDA Approval.” The Texas Tribune, 25 Aug. 2021, https://www.texastribune.org/2021/08/25/texas-covid-19-vaccine-mandates-ban-greg-abbott/.