The head of a leading US teachers’ union said she and other speakers dropped their masks during a conference so people could hear them better, sparking outrage among critics of mask mandates at schools.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), was accused of hypocrisy for not wearing a mask during an event she attended earlier this week in Puerto Rico. 

She and several other visiting officials speaking at the annual Somos conference addressed a “packed room” without wearing masks. 

Packed room at #SOMOSPR2021 forum, Supporting Student Success & Advancement As Schools Ease Into Full-time in-person Learning w/ AFT President, NYS Commissioner of Education, NYC Chancellor of Schools, AMPR presidente & other education leaders @rweingarten@DOEChancellor 🇵🇷

This appeared to violate the health guidelines of the US unincorporated territory, which requires face coverings to be worn in all indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. 

Weingarten, an outspoken advocate for mask mandates at schools, was confronted about photos from the conference on Twitter on Saturday.

She said people attending the event needed to have proof of vaccination and that she personally had a fresh negative Covid-19 test, but acknowledged the criticism was fair. 

“I think you are right. If kids are wearing masks in schools to protect themselves & others educators must wear masks inside as well. I’m sorry,” Weingarten tweeted.

You could not be #Somos or the hotel or panel w/o proof of vaccination. I had also just done a rapid Covid test & was negative.Frankly I think you are right. If kids are wearing masks in schools to protect themselves & others educators must wear masks inside as well. I’m sorry.

The official said she usually wore masks indoors, including during “the rest of the conference” and that she and other speakers “took them off as people were having a hard time hearing us.” The room was big and the audio system was bad, she explained.

The thread was bombarded with negative responses from anti-mandate campaigners, teachers who said they didn’t get to bend the rules like Weingarten did when in classrooms, and others displeased with her remarks.

But you enjoyed not having to wear a mask, right? While students in the city you live in – many of whom are vaccinated – have to wear their masks for 6+ hrs every day, even outdoors, while they’re in school. If you claim to be pro-student, as you claim, it’s time to take a stand.

Again, I’m a public school teacher. I am part of a teacher’s union.This is real hypocrisy here. How come you can take yours off because of sound issues and not someone like me?And I teach in a big room too as my room has both 27 desks and 24 computer workstations.

We know you know not wearing a mask is not putting you at risk, otherwise you would be wearing it. We can see how you really feel with our own eyes. Similarly, we want you to admit that kids aren’t at risk not wearing and free their faces. That is it.

AFT, the union that Weingarten leads, is the second-largest in the country, with some 1.7 million members. Other visiting speakers at Somos included Betty Rosa, New York City’s commissioner of education, and Meisha Porter, the chancellor of the city’s Department of Education.

The event was briefly disrupted by protesters, who decried Rosa for the role she plays in imposing austerity measures on Puerto Rico. She is a member of the Financial Oversight and Management Board, colloquially known as La Junta, installed by the US government to supervise the commonwealth’s budget. One of the protesters wore a voucher mask that covered his entire head.

Now! Protesters break into SOMOS to protest the participation of Betty Rosa the member of the @FOMBPR who has pushed austerity and abuse in Puerto Rico!

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