Texas AG’s Office threatens legal action against Diboll ISD for mask mandate

Diboll ISD to require masks on campuses
Diboll ISD to require masks on campuses(Diboll ISD)
Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 10:59 AM CDT
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DIBOLL, Texas (KTRE) - In the wake of Diboll ISD’s decision to require all students, staff, and visitors to wear masks starting on Sept. 1, the Texas Attorney General’s Office sent a letter that threatened legal action if the mask mandate is enforced.

“Your district recently enacted a local policy mandating that students and faculty wear face masks while at school,” Austin Kinghorn, general counsel for the AG’s Office wrote in the letter. “This mandate exceeds your district’s authority as restricted by Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38, which states that ‘[no] government entity, including a county, city, school district, and public health authority, and no governmental official may require any person to wear a face-covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering.”

The Diboll ISD School Board passed the mask requirement at its Aug. 30 meeting by a vote of 5 to 1. One board member was absent from the meeting.

Superintendent Vicki Thomas explained there’s been an uptick in cases and attendance is declining, saying the district wants to be proactive before “going over the cliff” and being forced to close campuses like other districts.

East Texas News has asked for comment from Thomas.

In the letter, Kinghorn reminded the school district’s leadership that the governor’s executive orders “have the force and effect of law” and supersede local regulations.

“Moreover, the Texas Supreme Court has now issued three orders staying lower court orders seeking to enjoin the governor from asserting his authority to pre-empt local face-mask mandates,” Kinghorn said in the letter. “Most recently, the court stated that its stay order applies to ‘[t]his case and others like it’ and the status quo of gubernatorial oversight over the wearing of masks at both the state and local levels ‘should remain in place while the court of appeals, and potentially this court, examine the parties’ merit arguments.”

The letter went on to say local court orders designed to enjoin the governor’s authority may not be enforced while appellate courts look at the underlying merits of these cases.

“This office will pursue further legal action, including any available injunctive relief, costs and attorney fees, penalties, and sanctions – including contempt of court – available at law against any local jurisdiction and its employees that persist in enforcing local masks mandates in violation of GA-38 and any applicable court order,” Kinghorn said in the letter.

The general counsel for the Texas AG’s office asked Diboll ISD to rescind the policy requiring DISD students, staff, and visitors to always wear masks. He also said the school district could opt to not enforce the mandate.

“Otherwise, you face potential legal action brought by this office,” Kinghorn said in the letter.

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