Mandatory mask-wearing: is this an “aversive technique”?

Many districts have been receiving communications from parents informing the district that a requirement that students wear masks at school is a violation of the U.S. Constitution as well as the Texas Education Code provision prohibiting the use of “aversive techniques.”

That’s not right.  Requiring that students wear masks does not deprive anyone of liberty without due process any more than our law requiring that we wear seat belts in a car.  Both are examples of governmental regulations designed to ensure safety.  Moreover, both the seat belt law and a school district policy enacted by the board of trustees are examples of the proper “due process of law”—our elected representatives making decisions in the interests of the general public.

The assertion that mandatory mask-wearing is an “aversive techniques” is way off base.  First, it ignores the dictionary definition of “aversive.”  Merriam-Webster’s 11th Edition Collegiate Dictionary tells us that “aversive” means “tending to avoid or causing avoidance of a noxious or punishing stimulus.”  It also defines “aversive therapy” as “therapy intended to suppress an undesirable habit or behavior (as smoking) by associating the habit or behavior with a noxious or punishing stimulus.”

The Education Code provision (T.E.C. 37.0023) is consistent with the dictionary:

In this section, “aversive techniques” means a technique or intervention that is intended to reduce the likelihood of a behavior reoccurring by intentionally inflicting on a student significant physical or emotional discomfort or pain.”   (Emphasis added).

When I was in first grade I saw Sister Mary Holywater make my friend, Mark Sullivan, take a bite out of a bar of soap and chew it while standing in front of the class. This was intended to “reduce the likelihood” of Mark using “bad words” ever again.  That was an aversive technique.

I saw the lady who lived next door to me deliberately hold a hot match on her little boy’s arm after she caught him playing with matches.  This was intended to “reduce the likelihood” that he would ever play with matches again.  That was an aversive technique.

School boards that have required mask-wearing are not intending to hurt anyone. Quite the contrary, they are doing what they believe to be a good practice designed to ensure good health for all of us.  They do not require masks in an effort to “reduce the likelihood” of some specific behavior.  To accuse these board members of inflicting an “aversive technique” on students is pure poppycock.


Tomorrow: How many of you are moms?