The Slatest

Texas Attorney General Sues Six School Districts Over Mask Mandates

Students participate in an activity during instruction, on the first day of class, at the Xavier Academy on August 23, 2021 in Houston, Texas.
Students participate in an activity during instruction, on the first day of class, at the Xavier Academy on August 23, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed lawsuits against six school districts to get them to nix mask mandates that are in place for students, teachers, and staff. Paxton criticized the school districts for what he called “unlawful political maneuvering” in requiring that everyone wear face masks while on school grounds. “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,” Paxton said in a statement. “I have full confidence that the courts will side with the law—not acts of political defiance.” The lawsuits target the Richardson, Round Rock, Galveston, Elgin, Spring, and Sherman independent school districts and come after warnings that those who defied Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on local mask mandates would face legal repercussions.

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It isn’t clear why Paxton chose these six school districts when dozens have defied Abbott’s ban on local mask mandates. But he warned others should be ready to defend themselves in court if they do not get rid of existing mandates. At least 85 school districts have instituted mask mandates of some kind, requiring face coverings while indoors. Paxton’s office warned in a statement that it “anticipates the filing of additional lawsuits if school districts and other governmental entities continue to defy state law.”

Abbott has defended his ban by saying that students can still choose to wear masks but it protects the authority of parents to make up their own mind about what they want for their children. The Texas Supreme Court has sided with Abbott, although several districts are still trying to obtain court orders to block the ban on mask mandates from being enforced. All the back and forth court cases and resolutions means there’s lots of confusion among Texans over who is required to wear a mask.

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One school district in Texas, which is not among those who were sued, instituted a mask requirement this week after two junior high school teachers died from COVID-19. Connally ISD, in McLennan County, shut down all of its campuses on August 31 amid an increase in cases and later said everyone had to wear a mask when the school reopened after Labor Day. “As educators, it is our duty to keep our students safe and healthy. We feel instituting a mask mandate is a step towards doing this,” Superintendent Wesley Holt said in an email to parents and employees.

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