Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
For the first time in the Texas mask wars, Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing six school districts that have defied Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on local masking orders.
Paxton on Friday sued the Elgin, Galveston, Richardson, Round Rock, Sherman and Spring school districts for requiring students, teachers, school employees and visitors to don face coverings while on their premises, which he dubbed “unlawful political maneuvering.”
“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.”
Dozens of school districts across the state have defied Abbott and issued mask mandates. It was not immediately clear late Friday why Paxton chose the six districts he sued.
The governor’s executive order bars local officials from compelling people to wear masks. Until this week, Abbott and Paxton have been on defense as several school districts, cities and counties in the state’s major metropolitan areas have sued over the order — or outright ignored it.
Who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?
People ages 5-17 are eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. People ages 18 and older are eligible to get the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, which are now preferred over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective?
All vaccines in the United States must go through three phases of clinical trials to make sure they are safe and effective. During the development of COVID-19 vaccines, phases overlapped to speed up the process, but all phases were completed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State data shows that unvaccinated Texans made up 85% of coronavirus cases and deaths from Jan. 15 to Oct. 1, 2021.
Should I still get the vaccine if I've had COVID-19?
Yes. Research has not yet shown how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again after recovering from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and vaccination will boost protection.
If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas?
Most chain pharmacies and many independent ones have a ready supply of the vaccine, and many private doctors' offices also have it. Texas has compiled other options for finding vaccine appointments here, and businesses or civic organizations can set up vaccine clinics to offer it to employees, visitors, customers or members. The vaccine is free, and you don’t need health insurance to get it.
Who can get a COVID-19 booster shot?
The protection the vaccine offers can wane over time, so medical experts recommend getting a booster shot. People ages 18 and older are eligible for booster shots, according to recommendations from the CDC. Recipients ages 12-17 who received the Pfizer vaccine as their initial two-dose treatment are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine as their booster.
More answers here.
Some 85 school districts and six counties have instituted mask mandates of some kind in defiance of Abbott’s ban — citing the need to protect schoolchildren too young to get the vaccine amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19.
The legal push-and-pull between the state’s Republican leadership and local officials has led to a patchwork of rules about mask-wearing across the state as judges uphold, revoke and reinstate the various requirements, creating confusion for Texans about whether they or their kids must wear a mask.
Abbott had called on Texas lawmakers to send him a bill that would definitively stop school officials from requiring students, teachers and other school employees to wear face coverings. But the prospect never gained steam in the Legislature.
Abbott and Paxton for weeks have threatened local governments and public schools that adopted masking rules with legal action — a threat Paxton made good on this week.
Round Rock Independent School District officials did not comment on the lawsuit, but said in a statement that the mask requirement is helping their schools stay open.
“We do work closely with both our local health authorities in Williamson and Travis counties who advise us that masks remain an essential tool in stemming the spread of COVID-19 in our classrooms,” Round Rock ISD officials said.
Spring Independent School District officials haven’t yet seen Paxton’s lawsuit, they said in a statement Friday — and only learned about it through a press release from the attorney general’s office.
“Spring ISD will let the legal process unfold and allow the courts to decide the merits of the case,” officials said.
Richardson Independent School District officials declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
A spokesperson for the Sherman school district said in a statement that school officials were aware of the lawsuit, but they have not received any other information.
“The district has and will continue to focus on promoting a safe and healthy learning environment for our students and staff, to include keeping its schools open and accessible for instruction as well as extracurricular activities,” the spokesperson said.
The remaining school districts did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In at least one lawsuit filed Thursday evening, Paxton asked a Galveston County judge to temporarily halt Galveston Independent School District’s mask mandate — arguing that Abbott has the power to override local emergency orders.
Abbott’s order “has the force and effect of state law and must be followed, regardless of whether local officials agree with it,” Paxton wrote in the lawsuit.
However, neither Abbott nor Paxton have the power to enforce the governor’s ban themselves, they have argued in court documents.
In addition, the Texas Education Agency isn’t requiring schools to comply with Abbott’s ban. That move so far has led the Biden administration to leave Texas out of a federal investigation into a group of states that have blocked school districts from mandating masks.
Allyson Waller contributed to this story.
Join us Sept. 20-25 at the 2021 Texas Tribune Festival. Tickets are on sale now for this multi-day celebration of big, bold ideas about politics, public policy and the day’s news, curated by The Texas Tribune’s award-winning journalists. Learn more.