Texas AG Sues San Antonio School System Over COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Staff

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
August 21, 2021 Updated: August 22, 2021

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) over its decision to impose a vaccine mandate on staff as a condition of employment.

Paxton’s complaint (pdf), filed on Aug. 19 at the District Court in Bexar County, Texas, seeks a temporary restraining order against a decision announced by SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez imposing a vaccine requirement for staff.

Citing rising infections and the spread of the Delta variant, Martinez wrote in an Aug. 16 letter to staff members that “we strongly believe that the best path forward as a school district is to require all staff to become vaccinated against COVID-19. And the timing is now.”

Staff members have until Oct. 15 to comply, Martinez said, with exemptions allowed on grounds of religion or having a qualifying disability that puts people at risk of side effects from the vaccine.

Paxton argued in the lawsuit that SAISD and Martinez, who is also named in the complaint, are deliberately violating state law by disregarding Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning vaccine mandates.

“In flouting GA-38’s ban on vaccination mandates, Defendants challenge the policy choices made by the State’s commander in chief during times of disaster,” Paxton wrote. “But the Texas Legislature made the Governor—not some patchwork of county judges, city mayors, or superintendents—the leader of the State’s response to and recovery from a statewide emergency.”

The attorney general said in a statement that more lawsuits could follow.

“If other governmental entities continue to blatantly disregard state law, I will sue every single one of them,” Paxton said.

Abbott’s executive order (pdf) prohibits any “government entity, including a county, city, school district and public health authority” and “any public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds” from enforcing mask or vaccine mandates.

“The new Executive Order emphasizes that the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates,” Abbott said in a July 29 statement, adding that “vaccines, which remain in abundant supply, are the most effective defense against the virus, and they will always remain voluntary—never forced—in the State of Texas.”

Martinez’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

In announcing the mandate, Martinez cited updated guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) confirming that employers can, with some restrictions, make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for employees.

The EEOC said employers would have to make “reasonable accommodations” for workers who can’t or won’t get vaccinated due to a medical condition, a religious belief, or pregnancy.

“Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations,” the EEOC said in the updated guidance.

In a statement accompanying the updated guidance, the commission said that laws that are outside the agency’s purview might “place additional restrictions on employers” considering vaccine mandates.

Paxton argued in his complaint that the defendants’ argument that the EEOC’s guidance permits the imposition of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate “misses the mark,” as the guidelines pertain to federal laws.

“This guidance does not analyze relevant state laws,” Paxton wrote, adding that “this guidance does nothing to excuse Defendants’ violation of GA-38 because Plaintiff’s claims are unrelated to the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, or any other EEO laws—rather, Plaintiff claims that Defendants have violated state law.”

Paxton’s lawsuit asks the court to grant a temporary restraining order that would prevent the enforcement of SAISD’s vaccine mandate for as long as Abbott’s order remains in effect.

A number of states have passed laws banning vaccine mandates, with a National Academy for State Health Policy tracker of state legislatures for such bills indicating that seven states have banned state worker vaccine requirements and five have prohibited private employer mandates.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'