Paris ISD trustees have issued a statement following a noon emergency meeting to discuss a temporary restraining order against its inclusion of masks in the district's dress code.
No action was taken at the meeting.
"The Board of Trustees wants to begin by thanking its students, faculty and community for its adherence to the dress code this year. As a result of the mask requirement, we are proud to have one of the lowest percentage of students and faculty absences due to Covid-19, and we believe Paris ISD’s mitigation actions have protected the health and safety of all involved," the statement reads. "We were particularly disheartened when the Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit and provided the district no notice before the hearing and obtained a temporary restraining order, denying Paris ISD its constitutional right to defend itself. Because Paris ISD believes in following the law, it will comply with the TRO and will not enforce its mask requirement portion of its dress code pending the Sept. 21, 2021, hearing.
"Paris ISD looks forward to being given the opportunity to defend its legislatively granted exclusive authority to govern the public schools of Paris ISD and hopes that the Court will consider its reasoning and legal authority at that time. In the meantime, we strongly encourage all our students, faculty, and visitors to continue wearing their masks for the safety of all involved."
Paris ISD notified district parents Tuesday morning that masks will no longer be required on its campuses, but they are encouraged.
The district's Board of Trustees made masks part of the district's dress code in August days before the school year started as Covid-19 cases in the community were rising. The approved change to the dress code stated: “For health reasons, masks are required for all employees and students to mitigate flu, cold, pandemic, and any other communicable diseases.” Trustee Dr. Bert Strom said the change was not permanent, and the board will revisit it at each monthly board meeting.
The change passed on a 5-1 vote, with Trustee Clifton Fendley dissenting on the basis that putting masks into the dress code was circumventing a mask mandate ban instituted by Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order.
“The Texas Governor does not have the authority to usurp the Board of Trustees’ exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the district. Nothing in the Governor’s Executive Order 38 states he has suspended Chapter 11 of the Texas Education Code, and therefore the Board has elected to amend its dress code consistent with its statutory authority,” the district stated in a press release after the meeting.
Trustees heard comments from the community for more than an hour, both in favor of and against mask requirements, prior to making the change.