A Florida man says he has no idea why his son’s fifth-grade teacher forced the boy to change his coronavirus mask, which featured branding from the restaurant Hooters.
Steve Golba says his son Ian, 11, was forced to switch out the mask at Sunset Park Elementary School in Windermere, Fla., on Monday, after the boy’s teacher flagged it as inappropriate.
“There’s nothing offensive or derogatory about this mask,” Golba told local station WESH.
The orange mask features the word “Hooters” written several times across it in white balloon letters.
“I don’t think it’s offensive,” Golba said. “It’s just a restaurant.”
Hooters is a restaurant chain with hundreds of franchises across the United States and Canada. Its logo features two exaggerated “O”s in the middle with an owl seemingly peering through them.
“Hooters” is also a euphemism for breasts — a double meaning that the restaurant has long played up with skimpy outfits for its predominantly female waiting staff, which it calls “Hooters Girls.” The company also prominently features large-breasted women in its marketing and beauty calendars.
Golba says his son has been wearing a Hooters mask for weeks and he’s been asked to remove it twice, including the most recent incident on Monday.
“I wore it and (the teacher) said it was not appropriate for school and I asked her why and she said if you really want to know why, go ask the principal,” Ian told WESH.
“He told me to take it off three times and I asked him why, he said just take it off, so I took it off and I had to wear a different mask.”
In a separate interview, Ian says he was told that the mask “expressed a woman’s body.”
He turned the mask inside out on another occasion, he said.
The school district says it does not comment on discipline. However, it did tell WESH and Fox 35 that the mask violates its dress code.
“The principal in each school reserves the right to determine what appropriate dress is for the school,” the dress code says.
Health experts around the world say wearing masks in public is one of the best ways to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, especially indoors and wherever physical distancing is impossible.
Greg Golba has vowed to send his son back to school with the mask, though he’s also told the boy to remove it if asked.
“I’ve never viewed it as anything but a restaurant,” Golba told Fox 35.
He added that he likes their chicken wings and that he will take his son back there soon.
The chain has been operating under enhanced safety measures amid the pandemic, according to its website. Various Hooters masks appear to have been added to the uniform.
“Do we feel women’s bodies are offensive? I don’t know. I don’t,” Golba said.
“The principal told me that it was inappropriate. I said I don’t understand why it’s inappropriate. There’s nothing wrong with that mask.”