EducationIssuesLocal NewsNorth Texas School District Requires Masks in Dress Code, Hoping to Bypass Governor’s Order

Paris ISD's unique workaround may present unique difficulties. State law says dress codes take effect 90 days after school board adoption.
August 18, 2021
In an attempt to work around Governor Greg Abbott’s order prohibiting mask mandates, a North Texas school district has codified its mask rule in the dress code.

The Paris News reports that the Paris ISD school board chose to implement the mask rule last night.

“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,” the district stated.

“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.”

Only one member voted against the decision: Trustee Clifton Fendly, who said he understood the effectiveness of masks but believed the decision to require them violated the oath of office. The other five trustees voted for the measure.

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Abbott’s executive order GA-38 threatens fines for school districts that require masks. It consolidated previous orders that gradually ended local government mask mandates, including an order that ended them in schools in May.

“No governmental 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 order reads.

In the past two weeks, localities across the state have fought the order. While some have taken Abbott to court, others have simply ignored it.

Paris ISD’s unique approach may present them with equally unique difficulties.

Schools that opt for quiet rebellion or outright lawsuits are gambling for court orders in their favor that would most likely take immediate effect if recent precedent is any indication.

Paris ISD’s mask rule, on the other hand, may not take effect for 90 more days according to the law.

“Students at a school at which uniforms are required shall wear the uniforms beginning on the 90th day after the date on which the board of trustees adopts the rules that require the uniforms,” the Texas Education Code reads.

Furthermore, the same chapter carves out a path for parents who object to the dress code to exempt their children from it. If parents give the school board a written statement of objection, and the school board determines that it “states a bona fide religious or philosophical objection to the requirement,” then the parents may get an exemption for their children or transfer them to a school without the requirement.

Lastly, the school board must set aside funding to pay for masks for students that are economically disadvantaged.

Federal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends masks, regardless of vaccination status, in all public schools. Public schools are the only exception to the CDC’s general guidance, which otherwise recommends universal masking only in areas where infection rates are surging. The CDC released no data with this recommendation.

According to the CDC, the pandemic poses very little risk of death to children. Out of the 614,000 total Americans that COVID-19 has taken since the CDC started measuring in January 2020, 361 died under the age of 18.

State data reflects this trend. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 59 Texans under the age of 20 have died from COVID-19. In total, the state has lost just under 53,000 Texans to the disease.

School starts at Paris ISD on Thursday.


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.