87th LegislatureEducationLocal NewsTexas Schools Experiment With Mask Mandates That Let Parents Opt Children Out

Some school districts around Texas are experimenting with mask mandates that let parents opt their children out — and so is the legislature.
September 2, 2021
School districts across Texas have bluntly defied Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order against government mask mandates by implementing blanket requirements on their campuses. However, some have been experimenting with mask rules that let parents opt their children out, reflecting a compromise in a statewide proposal currently moving through the Texas legislature.

The Plano ISD school board voted last week to implement a mask rule and allow parents to request exemptions. Corpus Christi ISD implemented a similar rule. Round Rock ISD used this opt-out system at first, but recently narrowed the rule to only allow exemptions for health reasons.

An opt-out mask mandate began just yesterday at Corsicana ISD. The district provided a form for parents or guardians to fill out if they want their children to be exempt from the mandate.

“I understand that as a result of this decision, my student will not be required to wear a mask while at school and/or during school activities when such requirement is in place,” the form reads.

The form releases the district from liability, “including medical expenses, adhering to my decision to exclude my student from the District’s mask requirement.” It also requires the parent or guardian to acknowledge that the student may be left out of field trips to places that require masks.

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These opt-out systems may potentially become the norm across Texas.

State Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) filed a bill that originally would have prohibited mask mandates in state law. Currently, the widely-flouted statewide ban on mask mandates is an executive order, not a statute in code.

On the other hand, Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), chair of the House Public Education Committee, filed a bill that would let school districts adopt mask policies.

The Public Education Committee heard both bills on August 30. Leach and Dutton expressed willingness to reach a compromise where districts could adopt mask mandates with a chance for parents to opt their children out.

Although Abbott has forbidden school mask mandates since May — months after lifting his own statewide mask mandate — rising COVID-19 case numbers have led school boards to rebel against his order, lengthening the list of lawsuits between local governments and the state.

Though Abbott has defended his order in court with varying success, the Supreme Court of Texas recently sided with him. Last week, the court stayed mask mandates in Bexar County and San Antonio, where local officials had sued Abbott for the authority to issue mandates in schools.


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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.