A school district based in Dallas, Texas, on Monday issued a temporary mask mandate for students and staff on its campuses and facilities, a move that runs counter to an executive order that Gov. Greg Abbott issued earlier this year.
The Dallas Independent School District (ISD), the second-largest school district in Texas, said in an announcement that the order is effective Aug. 10 as students return to classrooms. The order was issued “to protect staff and students from the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.”
Abbott previously in May issued an executive order to prohibit local governments and schools from requiring masks indoors. Per the order, schools had to end their mask mandates by June 4 or risk fines of up to $1,000.
Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told reporters at a press conference Monday that in his district, “Everyone on campus will be wearing a mask—staff, students, families, and visitors.” There will be some “variations” to the order for outdoor activities, he said.
Hinojosa did not speak with Abbott’s office regarding the latest mandate, local media reported.
“I felt now we are in an urgent crisis. Despite whatever authority the governor has, he is responsible for the state of Texas and I’m responsible for Dallas ISD,” Hinojosa said.
He added, “I’d rather take that consequence than have the health of students and staff and families on my mind. If I need to be held accountable, if I need to pay a fine, I’ll do what I need to do.”
According to a statement from the district, “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. Dallas ISD remains committed to the safety of our students and staff.”
The Epoch Times has reached out to Gov. Abbott’s office for comment.
The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, causes the disease COVID-19. Case numbers have continued to increase in Dallas county, with the county’s health department moving the risk level to red, which denotes a “high risk of transmission” in the area.
March was the last time the county was given the red risk level, Hinojosa noted.
He referred to a recent COVID-19 forecast by UT Southwestern Medical Center, which predicts a potential surge in hospitalizations by the end of August if preventative behaviors, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and restrictions on movement, are not in place.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA), which oversees pre-K through Grade 12 public education in the state, released new COVID-19 guidance (pdf) on Aug. 5 saying that school systems “cannot require students or staff to wear a mask,” citing Abbott’s order on masks.
Separately, the Houston ISD announced on Aug. 5 that it is also considering a mask mandate, despite Abbott’s order. The board of education in the district is set to vote on the matter this week.
Abbott in late July reiterated the message that local officials may face $1,000 fines if they do not comply with the state’s mask mandates.
“Every Texan has the right to choose whether they will wear a mask or have their children wear masks,” Abbott said in a statement on Twitter upon issuing a new order (pdf) that he said would “provide clarity and uniformity in the Lone Star State’s continued fight against COVID-19.”