Lawyers for Texas AG, SAISD due in court to argue over vaccine mandate

Attorney General Ken Paxton seeks to strike down district’s vaccine mandate

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

SAN ANTONIO – A legal battle over San Antonio Independent School District’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate is set to continue Thursday in a Bexar County courtroom.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office is seeking a temporary injunction that would strike down the mandate while the court case proceeds.

On Tuesday, lawyers for both sides argued over whether the attorney general’s office had legal grounds to sue SAISD over the vaccine mandate, which contradicts Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order barring government entities from mandating vaccines even if they are fully approved by the FDA. Ultimately, 408th Civil District Court Judge Angelica Jimenez ruled in the state’s favor, allowing the case to proceed.

Attorney Steve Chiscano, who represented the school district, argued “that even Ken Paxton as the attorney general doesn’t believe he has standing to bring the suit,” pointing to other court battles over Abbott’s mandates where Paxton has that they cannot enforce the executive orders.

Chiscano also argued that Paxton could not sue the district over its alleged violation of Abbott’s vaccine mandate because state law requires the attorney general be requested by a mayor, county judge or emergency management director before enforcing the order.

“That contention is absurd,” responded Ralph Molina, a lawyer with the attorney general’s office.

Molina said the lawsuit should be allowed to proceed because Paxton isn’t seeking criminal enforcement, but a civil enforcement action. He also argued that the state has “suffered an injury” by SAISD’s alleged violation, which allows them to sue the district.

In August, SAISD became the first district in the state to require vaccinations from employees. In a letter to SAISD staff members, Superintendent Pedro 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.

Paxton first sued the district on Aug. 19, after Abbott’s executive order banned governmental entities from requiring vaccinations that are not fully authorized by the FDA. However, the lawsuit quickly became irrelevant after the Pfizer vaccine received full FDA authorization.

Just days after the vaccine was fully authorized for use, Abbott issued another executive order, banning vaccine mandates despite full FDA authorization.

The district’s mandate is set to take effect on Oct. 15 unless it is struck down by a judge.

About the Author:

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.