SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio ISD’s vaccine mandate will be put on hold after a ruling from the Texas Supreme Court on Thursday.
The back-and-forth court battle ended up in Texas’ highest court after judges in San Antonio and the Fourth Court of Appeals ruled against the state, which sued the district to stop the mandate. The Supreme Court granted the stay suspending the mandate, but did not make a ruling based on the merits, the court noted.
“We have not yet had the opportunity to consider the merits of these challenges,” according to the ruling. “Our role has been to issue orders preserving the status quo.”
The district attempted to argue maintaining the status quo would require the court allowing the mandate to proceed, noting that the mandate was “the last actual, peaceable, non-contested status preceding the pending controversy ... between its clarification and (the executive order’s) issuance.”
But the court did not agree with the district.
“However, the Governor asserted his authority to control vaccine mandates at the state level in April, months before the School District implemented its mandate,” according to the ruling. “The status quo between the parties is not local control over vaccine mandates.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton applauded the ruling in a statement.
“No local entity is above state law.” Attorney General Paxton said. “I am glad to see that the Supreme Court of Texas has again confirmed that the Governor’s decisions control at both the state and local levels. This decision should serve as a reminder to all Texas school districts that they should be using their limited funds on educating children and equipping teachers, not defending unlawful vaccine mandates.”
SAISD released the following statement regarding the ruling:
“Today, the Texas Supreme Court temporarily stayed our employee vaccination mandate while the Fourth Court of Appeals continues reviewing our decisive victory in state district court against the Governor’s overreaching ban on vaccine mandates. The Supreme Court’s stay means that we must temporarily pause our efforts.
We are extremely proud of our efforts in providing abundant access to this life-saving protocol to all of our employees and the broader SAISD community. Based on the science, we continue to feel strongly that these vaccines help us keep our staff and students as healthy as possible and in the classroom, where learning happens best, and in giving our families stability.
We will continue to work with healthcare providers to coordinate vaccine clinics for those employees, students and family members who want them. This is especially important as we anticipate the availability of the Pfizer vaccine for 5-11 year old children in the next month. We remain committed to believing it’s the right thing to do.”
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. Since then, the governor has expanded his orders, barring private businesses from imposing vaccine mandates as well.
SAISD was the first and only school district in the state to announce the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for employees, with a few exemptions allowed due to disability or religious reasons.
The district’s attorneys have argued 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 mandate was set to take effect on Friday.