Texas school district changes dress code to dodge mask mandate ban

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 1:11 AM CDT
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PARIS, Texas (KXII/Gray News) - A Texas school district added a mask requirement to its dress code in an attempt to get around the governor’s ban on mask mandates.

When students in Texas’ Paris Independent School District start school Thursday, they will be required to wear masks as part of the district’s dress code, KXII reports.

The Paris Schools Board of Trustees made the decision Tuesday after a public hearing about masks in schools from people for and against requiring them. They say it is about the health and safety of students and staff and doesn’t defy Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order against mask mandates in the state.

General counsel for the district, Dennis Eichelbaum, says it is allowed to add masks to the dress code.

“The purpose is to protect as many people as possible and to get them in school and to get them educated,” he told KXII.

Chapter 11 of the Texas Education Code gives school boards the authority to govern their districts, which means they choose the dress code.

Eichelbaum says that when Abbott signed executive order GA-38 banning mask mandates, he did not suspend any part of the Texas Education Code. He says that means the board can require masks as part of the dress code.

Paris ISD is the first Texoma school district to require masks. The rule will apply to all employees and students. It is not a permanent change.

“That’s why the school board is going to look at it each month to decide if have things changed, are we able to have vaccinations come out? Things will change. We know that’s going to happen,” Eichelbaum said.

In the face of any challenges, the district plans to defend the policy and take it one day at a time. A statement released by the board says the governor doesn’t have the authority to take away their power over schools under their control.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is expected to send a cease and desist letter to Paris ISD about their dress code change.

The state attorney general’s website indicates Paris ISD is currently not in compliance with executive order 38 and shows their office has sent a letter to the district.

The district has not indicated whether they have received it yet.

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