Texas school district adds masks to dress code to bypass Gov. Greg Abbott’s order

Paris ISD voted Tuesday after hearing from parents who say families should make the decision

A school district in rural Northeast Texas amended its dress code this week to include face coverings as a requirement, bypassing Gov. Greg Abbott’s controversial ban on local mask mandates.

The Paris Independent School District’s board of trustees voted on the matter Tuesday after hearing from doctors and locals who urged the school to step in amid a COVID-19 surge across Texas, according to a report from The Paris News. Board members also heard from parents and staff who expressed that families should choose if their children should mask up, not school officials.

In a statement, the district said the board’s “exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the district” is protected by Abbott’s order.

“The Board of Trustees is concerned about the health and safety of its students and employees,” the statement reads. “The Board believes the dress code can be used to mitigate communicable health issues, and therefore has amended the PISD dress code to protect our students and employees.”

The Texas Tribune reported that Paris ISD, which has about 3,900 students, appears to be the first school to take the approach of changing the dress code for students and staff.

Cities across Texas, mainly in large metropolitan areas, have defied the governor in issuing mask mandates as students head back to class during a virus wave largely fueled by the more contagious delta variant. Health officials say the best way to curb the spread of the virus is by using masks and increasing the vaccination rate, but many school-aged children are not eligible for shots.

The delta variant, health officials say, is known to cause greater complications for children with the virus.

In San Antonio, Metro Health issued a directive that requires indoor masking at public schools after a Bexar County Civil District Court Judge granted a request for a temporary restraining order against Abbott’s executive order.

Elsewhere in Texas, at least four districts sent kids home and shut down campuses due to COVID-19 outbreaks at the beginning of the school year.

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Rebecca Salinas has worked as a digital journalist in San Antonio for six years. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.