x
Breaking News
More () »

Richardson ISD to keep mask requirement in place, despite Texas Supreme Court ruling

The district said as the 'ongoing legal situation' on masks between Dallas County and the state continues, it will monitor and adjust the requirements as needed.

DALLAS COUNTY, Texas — Updated at 9:23 p.m. with quotes from Richardson ISD.

On Monday, the Richardson Independent School District said it would continue to require its staff and students to wear masks, despite a weekend ruling from the Texas Supreme Court that backed Gov. Greg Abbott's order blocking public entities from mandating the face coverings.

The district joins Dallas ISD on requiring masks, despite that ruling.

In an announcement posted to the district's website, the superintendent cited a separate ruling from a Travis County court Sunday evening that "applies to all Texas school districts and temporarily restrains the governor’s mask order, allowing each school district in Texas to legally make a local decision on masks."

"This ruling, at least temporarily, allows RISD to decide on its own mask policy," the district said. 

RELATED: Dallas ISD says it will enforce a mask mandate until a court orders the district to stop, despite Texas Supreme Court ruling

However, the district added that as the "ongoing legal situation" on masks between Dallas County and the state of Texas continues, "RISD will monitor and adjust RISD requirements if necessary based on the latest legal developments."

Richardson ISD said it made its decision to keep the mask requirement in place because of the rapid surge of the more contagious delta variant of COVID-19 and because masks are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

"There needs to be local control and there needs to be allowance for leaders in the local context to look at data and take input from our health authorities and make the best decision for our students and staff," Richardson ISD Superintendent Jeannie Stone said.

The district also cited the limited number of pediatric ICUs available for children, and because it said 49 staffers and 50 students and parents were currently positive for the virus. Read more on the district's website here. 

"The situation continues to change, and RISD is doing what the law currently allows to protect students and the local healthcare system," the district said. "Parents are urged not to place their children in the middle of the ongoing political and legal situations, and work within RISD’s guidelines so teachers, administrators, nurses and employees are able to effectively serve students." 

Stone told WFAA the 39,000 students across 54 campuses will be required to wear masks on Tuesday when school begins. She says she will ultimately "follow the law" in the event a legal challenge strikes down the district's mask requirement. Stone tells WFAA a hearing for the temporary restraining order is scheduled for August 25 in Travis County.

The superintendent says she does not like the politics in all of this. She understands there will be parents who disagree with the action she is taking. 

"Most parents are going to understand the tough place that we’re in. If they don’t come with a mask, we’ll have one and we’ll counsel them with care and concern as to why this is in the best interest of everyone involved," Stone said.

RELATED: Here are the North Texas school districts requiring masks

Background

Last week, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins was successfully granted a temporary restraining order against Abbott's mask mandate ban as COVID-19 cases surge. 

It paved the way for Jenkins to issue a new countywide mask mandate for public buildings, schools, and businesses that went into effect last Wednesday at midnight.

Alongside Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed the decision handed down by Judge Tonya Paker in the 116th Civil District Court in Dallas County. But the appeal went to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Dallas, where Democratic justices outnumber Republican justices 11-2.

That appellate court denied both Abbott and Paxton their request to overturn the temporary restraining order. Paxton then announced he would be taking the fight to the Texas Supreme Court, where all justices are Republican.

In a petition for a writ of mandamus to the Texas Supreme Court, Paxton’s office said the Texas Disaster Act of 1975 gives the governor power to act as the “‘commander in chief’ of the state’s response to a disaster. Attorneys representing cities and counties that have sued Abbott over his executive order have argued that his orders should not supersede local orders.

Sunday's decision came a day before most of the Dallas County region heads back to school. It will block Jenkins' mask mandate until the judge's temporary injunction hearing is complete or comes to a decision. 

The same goes for Bexar County. 

Jenkins responded Sunday afternoon saying he won't stop working to protect residents within the county.

The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.