Texas school gets around Abbott mask ban by adding them to dress code

The governor recently was diagnosed with Covid-19 and is currently in isolation

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 18 August 2021 18:53
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A school in Texas has found a clever loophole to bypass Governor Greg Abbott's executive order prohibiting educators from enforcing student mask mandates.

NBC News reports that the Paris Independent School District has dodged Mr Abbott's order by adding masks to its dress code.

"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 district wrote in a statement.

The school board pointed out that the governor's executive order did not override the school's legal right to set its own dress code.

"Nothing in the Governor's Executive Order 38 state he has suspended Chapter 11 of the Texas Education Code, and therefore the Board has elected to amend its dress code consistent with statutory authority," the statement said.

Because Mr Abbott's face mask order is being challenged in court, it has left some school districts unsure of what the coming academic year will look like.

Some of Mr Abbott's Republican colleagues - like Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida - have enacted similar mask bans in their states.

Health experts have expressed concern that students returning to the classroom without masks will further spread the Delta variant of the coronavirus. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that infections in children have been on the rise since late spring, and not just among those with compromised immune systems.

Mr Abbott himself was recently diagnosed with Covid-19, and is currently undergoing the Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment while under isolation at the governor's mansion. He is reportedly in good health and not currently experiencing any symptoms.

The governor has painted his rejection of mask mandates as a stand for the personal rights of Texans.

"The path forward relies on personal responsibility - not government mandates," he said earlier in August.

However, some advocates opposing him - including Disability Rights Texas - have argued that students with disabilities or conditions that make them susceptible to Covid-19 will be forced to choose between having their learning disrupted or risking illness.

Disability Rights Texas has filed a lawsuit challenging Mr Abbott's executive order, arguing it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 14 child plaintiffs.

“Under Gov. Abbott’s order, parents of these children face an untenable choice: educate their children at school and expose them to potential severe illness, long COVID, and even death or keep their children home, where they will receive a fraction of their education in one of the least integrated settings available with limited to no exposure to non-disabled peers,” Tom Melsheimer, an attorney at Winston & Strawn assisting with the lawsuit, said. “Either outcome is a violation of students’ rights under the ADA and Section 504, and both are wholly avoidable.”

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