The battle between school districts and Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s mask ban forces Waco ISD to refuse to give in following the deaths of area educators.
Abbott signed Executive Order GA-38 in late July, which banned the mandates of masks by cities, counties and school districts.
Waco ISD is one of more than 80 districts and schools in Texas to violate the mask ban, according to a list by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
In Waco, Phillip Perry, the principal of GW Carver Middle School, 49, lost his life to COVID-19, the district announced last March. Melissa Perry (unrelated) of Waco ISD, the administrative assistant to communications staff, also died of COVID-19 last month, district officials told ABC News.
Weeks after the school reopened in August, two teachers – sixth grade teacher Natalia Chansler, 41, and seventh grade teacher David McCormick, 59 – died from complications from COVID. 19 in the neighboring Connally Independent School District.
Waco ISD Superintendent Susan Kincannon was unable to continue watching the virus impact staff and students and imposed a district mask warrant in late August.
“It’s a responsibility I take very seriously. We’ve lost employees along the way. And it’s very sad to watch,” Kincannon told the Texas Tribune. “It’s not something I ever thought I would have to deal with as a superintendent. It’s been a long way since this started.”
Since then, there has been a noticeable decrease in COVID-19 cases in the district.
“The number of COVID-19 cases reported to Waco ISD in the first few weeks of the school year was deeply concerning and far exceeded the same time last year. We had 104 cases in the first week and 285 in the second week, ”Waco ISD Chief of Staff Kyle DeBeer told ABC News.
Since then, cases have “followed a downward trend” with 34 cases reported last week. “While there are many factors at play, it seems clear that the requirement for masks has made a difference,” DeBeer said.
Waco ISD is one of a dozen districts across the state that are the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Texas Attorney General for violating the governor’s order.
The other districts subject to prosecution are: Diboll ISD, Elgin ISD, Honey Grove ISD, La Vega ISD, Longview ISD, Lufkin ISD, Paris ISD, Richardson ISD, Round Rock ISD and Spring ISD.
So far, a judge has not ruled on the state’s request for a temporary injunction on mask policy at Waco ISD, DeBeer said.
According to Paxton’s list, 36 additional schools and districts are now GA-38 compliant after not being previously.
The ban prompted the US Department of Education to launch a federal civil rights investigation on September 21 to determine whether the law violates the rights of schoolchildren with disabilities. The Texas Education Agency only recently began enforcing Abbott’s executive order in a directive issued on September 17 that prohibits school districts from requiring masks.
Disability Rights Texas, a federal agency to protect and advocate for the rights of disabled Texans, filed a lawsuit on behalf of 14 children against Abbott and TEA Commissioner Mike Morath in August, saying the ban on warrants to mask them puts you at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
Abbott and the state are involved in multiple legal battles with cities, counties and school districts over mask warrants. Several school districts have been granted temporary restraining orders allowing them to keep masks in schools and others have been forced to drop their face covering requirements.
In Dallas County, a district court judge issued a temporary injunction on Abbott’s order on Aug. 25, which allows the cloak warrant to continue for the time being, court documents show.
Last month, a Lamar County High Court issued a temporary injunction against Paris ISD for its mask mandate. The court said the district did not “have the authority to issue or enforce a face mask warrant in light of Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38.” This came after the Forth Worth Court of Appeals reinstated a temporary injunction against Fort Worth ISD’s mask warrant.
In late August, the Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocked a San Antonio and Bexar County mask warrant for their independent public school districts, a blow to efforts to challenge Abbott’s ban, saying “this statute quo “should remain in place while the courts explore the matter,” The Associated Press reported. The state’s highest court has yet to take a final decision on the matter.
There is also an ongoing lawsuit between the state and the San Antonio ISD over a vaccine mandate for the staff. Paxton has filed a lawsuit against the San Antonio ISD for requiring all district employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, saying it violates Executive Order GA-39, which prevents government entities from compelling them. individuals to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, he said in a press release.
So far, more than 185,000 positive student cases have been reported in the 2021-22 school year, according to data from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
Mask and vaccine mandates in schools remain at the center of a controversial debate across the country, as children under the age of 12 are still ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
At the same time, the number of cases of COVID-19 in children has increased over the past year. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 6 million children have tested positive for the virus.
Although the United States is reporting about 95,000 cases of children less than a month ago, the country still reported more than 148,000 cases of COVID-19 children last week, according to a weekly report. from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association. (CHA), published Monday evening.
Abbott has doubled down on its stance against COVID-19 warrants. On Monday, he issued a decree banning vaccination warrants by any entity, including private companies.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced,” he said in a statement.