Texas Attorney General sues San Antonio ISD over COVID-19 vaccine mandate for staff

Mandate set to be enforced in October

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, left, is suing SAISD and Superintendent Pedro Martinez, right, over the district's vaccine mandate. (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is taking San Antonio ISD to court after the school district issued a mandate requiring the staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In the lawsuit, filed Thursday in a Bexar County civil court, Paxton accuses the district and Superintendent Pedro Martinez of “deliberately violating state law” by issuing the mandate, which defies Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order barring any public entity from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations. The state is seeking a temporary injunction that would prohibit the district from enforcing the mandate, which is set to go into effect on Oct. 15.

“San Antonio ISD and Superintendent Martinez must recognize the fact that they are not above the law,” state’s attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.

The district, which also issued its own mask mandate for staff and students, is believed to be the first in the state to issue a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

In a letter to SAISD staff members, Martinez said the district has the authority to mandate vaccinations for employees according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, with a few exceptions, like religious beliefs and health reasons.

District officials said they could not comment on pending litigation when reached for a comment.

“Separate from that, it is our state and federal responsibility to protect children in our charge, and we will continue to act in the best interests of our students, families and community,” according to the statement. “We will continue to adhere to the directives from our local health authority and guidance from the CDC in order to be the most responsive to what our immediate community is demanding and expecting from us.”

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg had praised the district earlier this week for the mandates.

“They have the ability to do that and they’re utilizing those tools. They’re going to have a safer environment,” Nirenberg said on Monday.

The lawsuit is the latest in a flurry of legal battles between Abbott and local government entities over his executive order.

On Monday, Bexar County was granted a temporary injunction, allowing the county to issue a mask mandate in public schools. The county was granted the injunction partially due to the testimony from local officials, who painted a grim picture of what frontline responders are facing during the latest coronavirus surge fueled by the delta variant.

As of Wednesday, Bexar County was reporting a weekly average of 1,578 new coronavirus cases a day. Nearly 1,400 people are hospitalized in Bexar County due to the virus, leaving only 6% of hospital beds available.

Read the lawsuit here: