Spring, Texas – The Spring Independent School District Board of Trustees voted on August 23 to join the La Joya ISD lawsuit against Governor Greg Abbott over his executive order prohibiting government entities from instating mask mandates. The vote came in a specially-called meeting and was unanimously in favor of joining the suit.
“The decision of our board of trustees to join the lawsuit against Gov. Abbott’s ban on mask mandates demonstrates a continued commitment to the health and safety of our students and staff,” said Superintendent Rodney Watson in an emailed statement the day after the vote. “Our goal is to do everything we can to mitigate the risk and spread of COVID-19 among our students and staff so we can keep our schools open and minimize the potential for disruptions to learning and teaching.”
Spring ISD is now one of several school districts that have become intervenors, or third-party entities that join a lawsuit because they have a stake in the outcome but were not originally named as plaintiffs. The original La Joya suit was filed on August 12, two weeks after the July 29 executive order.
The lawsuit cites statistics from the Texas Department of State Health Services as well as official recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control in its argument that the current surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant poses an imminent danger to students and the public. La Joya ISD and the other school districts argue that the situation is too dangerous to not require masks on school campuses and buses.
The central objective and legal argument of the suit can be summarized in the statement, “Plaintiffs respectfully request the court to state that the governor’s statement in Executive Order GA-38 that school districts cannot accept masking requirements is ultra-vires and invalid because the Texas Disaster Act does not confer such authority on the governor.”
Spring ISD was one of the first school districts to defy Abbott’s executive order when it announced it would require masks to be worn on all district properties starting August 16. Abbott’s executive order stipulates a fine of up to $1,000 for government entities that violate the ban; however, it does not specify how the penalty would apply to school districts.