State Watch

Texas parents ask judge to allow schools to mandate masks

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Parents of 12 children in Dallas County, Texas, are asking a judge to let local schools require masks to safeguard young children, who are not yet authorized to get vaccinated, from contracting COVID-19.

The parents are arguing that the statewide ban on mask mandates in schools, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in May, is an overreach of the governor’s powers, The Dallas Morning News reported.

They are contending that Abbott’s order is unconstitutional and asking a judge to let school districts mandate face coverings to protect young children from COVID-19, the newspaper reported. The parents also noted that the children in the schools are medically fragile or have a condition that makes in-person learning essential.

“Texas schools are preparing to open while stripped of the authority to ensure that broadly recommended public health guidelines are adhered to solely because of the Governor’s unlawful order,” the claim says, according to the Morning News.

Jenna Royal, a lawyer for the parents, said her clients were “terrified” about the prospect of having to decide between sending their children to school with unsafe conditions or keeping them at home which would jeopardize their education and growth.

She said the “hands of the school districts across the state have been tied,” according to the newspaper, adding, “We believe the governor has exceeded his rights and duties.”

They are specifically saying that the ban on mask mandates hinders school districts’ abilities to establish safe learning environments for students. The parents are also claiming that the Texas Disaster Act does not give Abbott the power to limit school actions in such a way he is, according to the Morning News.

They are joining a counterclaim in the legal discourse between Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch and Abbott, which focuses on the ban on mask requirements, according to the newspaper.

The filing comes one day after the Dallas Independent School District announced that it was defying Abbott’s ban on mask mandates and would require all staff, students and visitors to wear face coverings on district property beginning Tuesday.

The increased debate over mask mandates and schools comes as education administrators, public health officials and families are preparing for the fall semester, when children are set to return to classrooms nationwide.

The return, however, is coinciding with a surge in COVID-19 cases, driven largely by the highly infectious delta variant which has taken hold in the U.S. as the dominant coronavirus strain.

Concerns are also heightened for young children who are not yet authorized to get inoculated. None of the vaccines permitted under the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization have been approved for children under 12 years old.


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