Parents sue Texas school district over mask mandate

If you drive about 50 miles northwest of League City, you will arrive in Katy, Texas. The city of about 20,000 residents is home to a group of parents that is suing the Katy Independent School District (ISD) over its decision to require masks in schools. In court documents, the parents claim the mask mandate is unconstitutional and that it violates Gov. Greg Abbot’s executive order that lifted the requirement last month.

The lawsuit challenges the ISD’s in-person safety protocols, which require that students wear masks in common areas such as hallways and on buses.

Full authority

After Abbott announced Executive Order GA-34 at the beginning of March, he said he expected the Texas Education Agency to leave mask mandate decisions up to local school boards. On its website, the agency’s updated mask policy states that “local school boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy.”

Katy ISD says that students who don’t comply with its mask policy will be required to take online classes and they won’t be allowed to take part in student activities. Students who have medical conditions that prevent them from wearing masks must notify the school’s nurse and provide documentation from their medical provider, the Texas Tribune reported.

The parents’ lawsuit argues that by forcing kids to switch to virtual classes, the Katy ISD violates the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in which the court decided unanimously that racial segregation of students was unconstitutional. In the landmark civil rights case, the court found that “separate but equal” education was not at all equal.

The attorney who filed the suit said the mask policy is unlawful.

Parents’ attorney

“You don’t create a policy that is geared around a minority,” said Jared Woodfill of the relatively low number of students and teachers whose health conditions put them at risk of contracting Covid-19.“You don’t shut down and force 99.9 percent of the people to wear a mask all day long.”

Katy ISD says it’s complying with the governor’s executive order and the Texas Education Agency’s Public Health Planning Guidance.