Texas is now suing 6 school districts over making students wear masks

About 85 Texas districts have mandated masks, according to list kept by attorney general.
By: | September 13, 2021
Students pass through the halls at a Dallas ISD elementary school. (Photo: Dallas ISD)Students pass through the halls at a Dallas ISD elementary school. (Photo: Dallas ISD)

Like their colleagues in Florida, leaders in six Texas school districts are now facing lawsuits from the state over their universal mask mandates.

Richardson, Round Rock, Galveston, Elgin, Spring and Sherman independent school districts have been sued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for defying Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order barring school mask mandates.

“Not only are superintendents across Texas openly violating state law, but they are using district resources—that ought to be used for teacher merit raises or other educational benefits—to defend their unlawful political maneuvering,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.

“If districts choose to spend their money on legal fees, they must do so knowing that my office is ready and willing to litigate these cases.”

These six districts may only be the first of others that will have to face off against the state. Paxton also posted a list of all the districts and public entities in the state that have mandate masks despite the governor’s executive order.

About 85 Texas districts have mandated masks, according to Paxton’s list.

Paxton had sued San Antonio ISD in August over its mask mandate. The Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of Paxton in blocking the district’s mask requirement.

Unlike during the 2020-21 school year, the delta variant has sharply increased transmission of COVID within schools. Still, several studies have shown that masks stymie the spread of the virus, NPR reported.

study in Wood County, Wisconsin, found COVID cases in schools requiring masks were 37% lower than in the community. And mask-wearing in schools in Salt Lake County, Utah, kept the spread of COVID among students below 1%.

In Arizona, another state where the governor has banned mask mandates, the majority of parents support requiring face coverings, according to a survey co-sponsored by the Arizona School Boards Association.

“The heart of the mask issue is local control,” Ann O’Brien, president of Arizona School Boards Association’s board of directors and a Deer Valley Unified School District governing board member, said in a statement. “We believe that our member districts and their locally elected school board should be able to decide what’s best for their students and staff.”

Biden urges more teacher vaccination mandates

Vaccine mandates are likely to become the next flashpoint between schools and state officials. A small but growing number of districts is now mandating vaccines for students, particularly those participating in high school sports.

Many more districts, and several states, have required teachers, administrators and staff to get vaccinated. In announcing sweeping vaccine mandates for the federal government and private-sector workers last week, President Joe Biden stressed the continued vaccination of teachers as the best way to keep schools open and students healthy.

About 90% of the nation’s teachers are vaccinated, Biden said Friday during a visit to Brookland Middle School in Washington, D.C.

“I’m calling on all governors to require vaccinations for all teachers and staff,” Biden said. “Vaccination requirements in schools are nothing new.  They work.  They’re overwhelmingly supported by educators and their unions.”

A majority of parents (55%) back vaccine mandates for students attending school in-person, an increase in support compared to a similar poll in April, according to a CNN poll released Monday.

But in another survey, 43% of parents said they would not send their children to school if vaccines were required, according to a Morning Consult poll. This survey also found that 60% of parents support vaccine mandates for teachers.