RICHARDSON, Texas - Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says he’s filing lawsuits against six school districts that are defying Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order regarding mask mandates.
The governor says districts can’t have mask mandates, but SMU constitutional law professor Dale Carpenter says more than 80 districts across the state have them.
"It’s just a question of who has authority," Carpenter said. "He could of chosen any number of school districts. He chose six specifically and we have no idea why."
Richardson ISD IS one of them. It’s the only district in North Texas being sued.
The school district joined an existing lawsuit against Gov. Abbott back in August, claiming he was exceeding his authority by not allowing districts to create mandates.
"The critical importance of local control and local decisions to keep students safe and in school based upon current health and safety conditions," Richardson ISD Superintendent Jeannie Stone said.
Stone doubled down on the district’s stance in a video message last week, in the midst of trying times.
The district had to close in-person learning at Brentfield Elementary because of COVID-19 outbreaks and shift to virtual learning. The school is set to re-open Monday.
"Kids don’t have the immunity wall that adults do, and remember that our elementary age children are not eligible for any vaccine," Stone said.
FILE - A poster from the CDC in the hallway that says, "Please wear a cloth face covering" and "Maintain a distance of 6 feet whenever possible." (Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
"It’s hard to say what the attorney general was thinking when he decided to sue just the six out of scores of districts that are defying the governor’s order, and Dallas was the most prominent one to do so, and yet, they are not in the cross hairs of the attorney general’s lawsuits, so far," Carpenter said.
Dallas ISD, like some other districts, has had its mask mandate in place since the first week of school. It was labeled a temporary solution.
The Texas Education Agency has said it will not enforce the governor’s order until the lawsuits are resolved.
"We could’ve had this same conversation a month ago. Why now? Why these districts?" Carpenter added.
Carpenter isn’t sure how the lawsuit will work out, but believes it’s a gray area because, while the governor has authority under the Texas Disaster Act, he must do so for the betterment of public health, and fewer masks could hurt his case.
"I think that the governor has a very strong claim that he has very broad authority underneath the Texas Disaster Act," he said. "If the governor is not acting in a way that promotes the health of the public, then he’s really not acting under his powers, and the only question in my mind will be whether a court is brave enough to say something like that in defiance of what the governor has done."