San Antonio ISD vaccine mandate upheld by Bexar County judge

AG’s office will appeal ruling, attorneys say

SAISD lays out COVID-19 safety protocols as in-person learning returns this fall

SAN ANTONIO – The Texas Attorney General’s efforts to secure a temporary injunction striking down San Antonio ISD’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for staff members were unsuccessful on Friday, allowing the school district’s policy to remain in effect.

On Friday, 45th Civil District Court Judge Mary Lou Alvarez denied the state’s motion after a hearing that lasted for roughly two hours. The attorney general’s office plans to appeal the ruling to the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals, they indicated after Alvarez’s ruling.

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Attorney General Ken Paxton launched the lawsuit against the school district in early September after Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order that prohibited government entities from requiring COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of their FDA approval status.

San Antonio ISD is the first district in the state to announce the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for employees, with a few exemptions allowed due to disability or religious reasons.

Deputy Attorney General Aaron Reitz pointed to that fact often during the hearing.

“San Antonio Independent is the only political subdivision among thousands to look at (the executive order) and say, ‘Oh, this says no vaccine mandates, we don’t care, impose the vaccine mandate anyway,’” Reitz said. “No one else had made this mistake.”

Though the district may have policy disagreements with the governor’s order, it has the “force and effect of state law,” Reitz argued.

The district’s attorneys refuted that, arguing that Abbott’s executive order does not have that authority under the Texas Disaster Act, which gives the governor broad powers during an emergency like the coronavirus pandemic.

“The suspension requires that the government can only suspend (laws) if strict compliance (of the laws) ... would in any way prevent, hinder or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster,” said attorney Steve Chiscano, who argued on behalf of SAISD. “They showed you no evidence of that.”

By mandating the vaccinations, Chiscano argued the district was protecting its staff and students and ensuring that 47,000 students would be able to go to school safely for in-person instruction.

Alvarez acknowledged the state’s “eloquent, passionate arguments,” but said they failed to provide the evidence necessary for a temporary injunction.

The school district’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate goes into effect on Oct. 15. It will remain in effect unless it is struck down in the appeals process. The trial over this lawsuit is currently scheduled for Jan. 19, 2022.

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