Major Texas public school district defies Gov. Abbott’s executive order by requiring masks in schools

Texas State Teachers Association has previously urged Abbott to give schools the power to require masks

A student colors in a classroom at Tussahaw Elementary school on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in McDonough, Ga. Schools have begun reopening in the U.S. with most states leaving it up to local schools to decide whether to require masks.   (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
A student colors in a classroom at Tussahaw Elementary school on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in McDonough, Ga. Schools have begun reopening in the U.S. with most states leaving it up to local schools to decide whether to require masks. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

DALLAS – The second largest school district in Texas is defying an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott and requiring that all students, staff and visitors wear masks.

Dallas Independent School District made the announcement Monday stating that everyone on district property must wear a mask, effective Tuesday.

Major governing bodies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, San Antonio’s Metro Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all recently advised people to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccine status.

Also, the Southern Center for Child Advocacy, a nonprofit education group, filed a lawsuit Sunday night in Travis County against Abbott and his executive order prohibiting school districts, governmental bodies or any public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds from requiring masks.

In the absence of a statewide mask mandate, the group seeks to give the power to enforce mask wearing back to local school districts, said Hank Bostwick, volunteer center coordinator and lawyer.

However, Abbott has doubled down on his stance prohibiting governmental entities like schools from issuing masks or vaccine mandates and Texas schools are required to comply with the governor’s executive order.

The Texas State Teachers Association has previously urged Abbott to give schools the power to require masks ahead of the start of the school year.

In regards to Dallas ISD’s announcement, TSTA applauded the district for “putting the health and safety of its students, employees and local community first and requiring mask use in its schools.”

TSTA is urging other districts to join Dallas ISD “and ignore Gov. Abbott’s politically motivated order prohibiting mask mandates,” officials said in a statement.

“We agree with Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa that it is within a school district’s discretion to take steps to ensure the health and safety of its students and employees,” TSTA officials said. “We believe it also is the governor’s responsibility to do everything he can to ensure the health and safety of all his constituents, or at least get out of the way so local officials can.”

Millard House II, the superintendent for Houston Independent School District, has said he is planning to propose a mask mandate for HISD as well at the district’s board meeting on Thursday.

According to HISD, the mandate would require all students, staff and visitors to wear masks at schools, on buses and at district facilities.

Masks aren’t the only source of contention for how to appropriately address the ongoing pandemic for school districts. KSAT’s Classroom Confessionals series details thoughts and opinions from parents and educators regarding the return to in-person learning for the upcoming school year.

In the Classroom Confessionals series, one parent remarked that Abbott is “putting politics above the safety of our children,” while another felt the issue was more complicated, stating, “there is no easy answer to this. I support Gov. Abbott.

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About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.