Legal battles over mask mandates in North Texas public schools heat up

Across the state of Texas, the legal battles are ramping up between the governor and local school districts that want to require students and staff to wear masks.

"We know that it's important for us to have local control in the school district to make the decisions that are best suited for our students and our community," said Arlington ISD Superintendent Dr. Marcelo Cavazos.

Late Friday, Arlington ISD announced its board next week will consider legal action against the governor, arguing districts should have the ability to mandate masks.

It pointed to the scarcity of staffed pediatric ICU beds. The area went from zero staffed Thursday up to four Friday.

RELATED: No staffed pediatric ICU beds left in North Texas region, hospital official says

Students in Arlington ISD go back to class Monday. In the meantime, masks are strongly encouraged.

The district says it’s important that it is able to make decisions for its students.

"From our perspective, before we make mandates or any other things that we need, that clarity of who has that authority," Dr. Cavazos said. "And that's what we're considering next week in terms of the lawsuit because we know that, like last year, we had to make major adaptations to all types of things."

Fort Worth ISD challenged the governor’s authority in issuing a mask mandate earlier this week, but it suffered a legal setback Friday.

A judge sided with a group of parents suing over the mandate, temporarily halting it.

Jennifer Treger is one of the plaintiffs.

"I have a very strong belief that parents should get to decide what's best for their child and should it be an entity or an institution or a government," she said. "I think that every parent is capable of deciding what they think is best for their own child."

Attorney Warren Norred is representing the group of parents.

"The Fort Worth ISD simply failed to follow its own rules," he said. "It was playing games. It knows that it has to have a board vote to change a policy, and it didn't do that. So that gives us an open meeting claim."

As fights for school mask mandates play out, the Biden Administration is weighing in.

In a Department of Education letter to the governor, the department suggested blocking school districts from implementing safety measures could be at odds with some of the requirements for getting federal relief money.

"The department stands with these dedicated educators who are working to safely reopen schools and maintain safe in-person instruction," the letter read. "We will continue to closely review and monitor whether Texas is meeting all of its federal fiscal requirements. "

In addition to Arlington ISD's news that it's drafting legal action, it says it'll also get feedback at next week’s board meeting and consider offering a virtual learning option for students pre-K through sixth grade since those students are too young to be vaccinated. 

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