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Dallas school district defies Texas gov’s mask mandate ban, says face coverings required as schools reopen

Dallas school district defies Texas gov’s mask mandate ban, says face coverings required as schools reopen
The Dallas Independent School District has announced that masks will be required for students and staff, in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s order banning such Covid-19 mandates.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa made the announcement during a Monday press conference and argued that it was completely within the rights of the school district to mandate masks – something with which the Republican governor has made clear he does not agree. 

The Dallas school board president released a statement endorsing Hinojosa’s decision, saying it was “reasonable and necessary safety protocol.”

Abbott’s May order, however, slaps a potential $1,000 fine on those who defy the mandate ban, but even Hinojosa admitted he had no clue how it could be enforced across an entire district. 

He added that “our attorneys” had called the governor’s executive order “very loose.”

“Who knows?” he said when asked about a potential fine, adding that the Dallas school district would not be the only one taking such action. Houston could also soon be implementing mask mandates for schools, as its superintendent said last week that he would put a potential mask mandate in front of Houston trustees at an August 12 board meeting. Hinojosa said he would “rather face that consequence of having to pay some money than get further behind with these students.”

The legality of mask mandates and the attempts to ban them is clearly in question in states such as Texas, but the Dallas district feels confident their authority supersedes the governor’s in this situation.

“Governor Abbott’s order does not limit the district’s rights as an employer and educational institution to establish reasonable and necessary safety rules for its staff and students,” a statement announcing the mandate reads. “Dallas ISD [Independent School District] remains committed to the safety of our students and staff.”

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Masks will be required at Dallas schools for “all staff, students, and visitors” while they are on school district property. An email was sent to parents on Monday informing them the mandate would come into effect on Tuesday. 

The mandate follows rising coronavirus hospitalizations in Dallas, prompting the county to up its threat level to red, meaning it is a community at high risk of Covid-19 transmissions. 

Those who do follow the new mandate will be punished, Hinojosa said, though disciplinary specifics are still being discussed. 

“We’re going to ask people to comply first,” he said, according to local news platform WFAA. “If you don’t comply, you’re going to suffer the consequences.”

In a statement on Monday from his office responding to criticism of his stance against potential mask and vaccine mandates, Abbott’s office reiterated his support for personal choice over government orders. 

“Governor Abbott has been clear that we must rely on personal responsibility, not government mandates,” the statement reads. “Every Texan has a right to choose for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, or get vaccinated.”

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