PARIS, Texas — A school district in northeast Texas is adding masks to its dress code in an apparent attempt to get around Governor Greg Abbot's ban on face-covering mandates.
The Paris Independent School District (PISD) announced the change in a statement Tuesday, saying its board of trustees is concerned about the health and safety of its students and staff as COVID-19 cases rise in the Lone Star State and around the nation.
“The board believes the dress code can be used to mitigate communicable health issues, and therefore has amended the PISD dress code to protect our students and employees,” the district wrote.
The district says Abbott doesn’t have the authority to usurp their board’s power and duty to govern and oversee the management of their public schools.
“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,” wrote the district.
The board voted 5-1 to approve the dress code change. The one dissenting vote was from a trustee who said he wasn’t against masks as a mitigation measure, but he believed using the move as a loophole to circumvent the governor’s mandate was against the board’s oath of office, The Paris News reports.
Another trustee told the newspaper that the school board will revisit the dress code at monthly meetings.
Abbott signed an executive order in late July that bans mandates regarding face coverings in the state. In a statement at the time, Abbott said Texas will rely on “personal responsibility” as the state seeks to emerge from the pandemic.
“They have the individual right and responsibility to decide for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, and engage in leisure activities,” he wrote. “Vaccines, which remain in abundant supply, are the most effective defense against the virus, and they will always remain voluntary – never forced – in the State of Texas.”
Abbott himself announced Tuesday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus. The governor said he is fully vaccinated and isn’t experiencing any symptoms.