The Fort Worth ISD Board of Trustees voted Tuesday night to join a lawsuit, seeking to override Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates.
The lawsuit includes several South Texas school districts along with Harris County, the state's most populous county.
“I hate masks,” said Trustee Anne Darr. “But the thing I hate more is sick children. As a parent, why would I ignore the pleas of our medical community to wear masks. It is my duty to support a mask mandate.”
“I hate that we’ve politicized a public health crisis,” said Trustee Quinton “Q” Phillips. “[Masking] is a tool to help make sure a child does not end up in an ICU. This is only about what is right for everyone.”
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The vote was six in favor, one opposed and one abstention. Board members asked District leadership to bring a report to the Board for virtual learning at the next meeting.
Fort Worth ISD officials say they will continue to strongly recommend masks for all students, faculty and staff and that masks will not be required at this time.
After a two-hour hearing in Travis County on Friday, a judge granted temporary restraining orders to Harris County and the South Texas school districts, including Brownsville, La Joya and Edinburg, allowing them to keep mask mandates they have put in place in defiance of Abbott's executive order.
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Lawyers with the Texas Attorney General's Office argued Abbott is in charge of the state's response to the pandemic and counties and school districts can't ignore his executive order.
The Fort Worth ISD meeting started at 6 p.m. and for the first portion of it, members from the public were given a minute to address the board.
The packed room was made up of people who were for or against a mask requirement.
“Those of us who chose not to wear a mask should not be forced to do something that we don’t believe in," expressed a grandmother.
“I am asking that you do what you can to fight this restraining order and institute a mandate that requires my two children to wear a mask so that your children have a hospital bed to go to when they need it for COVID or not," said one mother.
Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner announced last week that masks would be required after following advice from more than 100 doctors from Cook Childrens'.
That decision was blocked by a Tarrant County judge who granted a temporary restraining order to district parents who fought in court against the district's mandate.
The district has followed the ruling, but that's part of the reason for Tuesday's meeting.
At 7:19 p.m. the Board went into executive session to seek advice from attorneys.
This litigation stemmed from Executive Order GA-38 issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in July. The executive order forbade local governments and school districts from issuing mask mandates, bans government agencies from making individuals get vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination, and threatening fines of up to $1,000 on those who fail to comply.
The specific cases to be discussed in the Fort Worth ISD meeting are:
- La Joya ISD, et al. and Shanetra Miles-Fowler, et al. v. Abbott, pending in Travis County
- In re Abbott, pending in the Texas Supreme Court
- The Southern Center for Child Advocacy v. Abbott, pending in Travis County
- Treger, et al v. Fort Worth ISD, pending in Tarrant County
Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner announced a mask mandate at a school board meeting last week, following other large districts in the state, like Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, in requiring masks.
The districts all issued their orders despite Abbott's executive order prohibiting mask mandates.
Scribner cited a letter he received from more than 100 pediatricians pleading for a mask mandate to keep children safe when he issued the requirement.
"The safety of students faculty and staff has and always will be our priority," Scribner said Tuesday.
In a hearing Friday, 141st District Court Judge John Chupp granted a temporary restraining order to district parents against the district, saying an executive order issued by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) banning mask mandates superseded the school district's own requirement.
The temporary restraining order is in effect for 14 days, pending the district's application for a temporary injunction, which will be heard Aug. 26.