Texas AG files lawsuits against Waco-area school districts over mask mandates
WACO ISD superintendent says she is ‘not interested in politics’
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The Office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed lawsuits against four Waco-area school districts - McGregor, La Vega, Waco and Midway - that issued some form of mask mandate in defiance of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38 banning mask mandates.
The Connally and Salado school districts were sent a letter from Paxton’s office for non-compliance, according to the state attorney general’s website.
Marlin ISD in Falls County also implemented a mask mandate three weeks ago, but do not appear on Paxton’s list of government entities not in compliance.
“As I’ve said before, I’m not interested in politics. I’m focused on taking care of kids,” Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon told KWTX in a statement Tuesday.
Kincannon said the district has not yet been served with Paxton’s lawsuit. “If and when Waco ISD is actually served in this lawsuit, we will review it and respond accordingly,” she said.
“In the meantime, two things are clear,” Kincannon said. “Courts across the state are deeply divided over whether the mask provisions of the governor’s executive order have the force of law. More importantly, since requiring masks in all Waco ISD buildings, the number of students and employees reporting that they have tested positive for COVID-19 has decreased significantly.”
At Waco ISD, there are currently 31 cases of coronavirus. When its mask mandate was issued on August 26th, there were 55 cases across its campuses.
At Midway ISD, public information officer Traci Marlin says, “Some clarification would be nice. The district is aware of the lawsuit but we don’t have any details and we haven’t been served yet.”
Marlin further stated in a statement to KWTX, “Also we don’t have a mask mandate, so there is some confusion.”
Midway ISD has a policy that allows schools to implement “mask directives” if needed. Last week, River Valley Intermediate issued a mask directive, effective September 7, as a result of an increase in COVID-19 cases. The school’s directive was set to last for ten days.
“We are at a higher percentage than we would like to be and so, beginning [September 7], we will issue a mask directive and ask that all students and staff wear a mask while inside River Valley for ten days,” the principal, Paul Offill said in a video announcement to parents on September 6th.
River Valley Intermediate has 12 of the district’s 124 active cases according to the district’s COVID dashboard Tuesday afternoon,
La Vega ISD is reporting 41 cases district wide as of its dashboards last update which was done on September 10th.
Regarding the districts mailed a letter by the attorney general for non-compliance, Connally and Salado do not post COVID-19 cases to the district websites.
McGregor ISD is reporting 15 active cases, down from 98 it reported 14 days ago. At the time, the rise in cases pushed McGregor Primary’s positivity rate above 2%, moving them into its districts stage that requires facemasks. With the positivity rate now below 2% on all campuses, masking is again optional but encouraged, according to its website.
McGregor ISD Superintendent James Lenamon said the district has not yet been served with a lawsuit and will confer with its counsel and the local public health district to determine how it moves forward.
“The district has seen a positive impact from its mitigation plan with the positivity rate dropping from 3.39 percent districtwide to .6 percent after entering stage 2 (of its mitigation plan) on September 3,” thus averting campus closures, Lenamon said.
Salado Middle School reached a 2% case threshold within a seven-day period at the start of the month. Masks were required in buildings and buses from September 2 through September 8th.
The Connally ISD had closed all campuses after an outbreak of the virus and the deaths of two teachers who contracted it, and they remained closed until Sept. 7.
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