Executive Director of Dallas Youth Poets Gabby Elvessie and a group of children with disabilities filed a federal lawsuit against Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R). The spoken word and advocacy group alleges that his no-mask mandate puts students with disabilities in danger during the coronavirus pandemic. The delta variant has made the disease far more contagious. Ironically, even though he had taken both COVID-19 shots, Abbott was just diagnosed with the virus and is quarantining.
The Texas Supreme Court temporarily paused a restraining order that allowed Dallas and Bexar counties to issue countywide mask mandates that covered public school districts. A Travis County judge granted a new restraining order that “temporarily blocked Abbott from prohibiting mask mandates in Texas public schools.” Children under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton insisted that he would take all of the school districts violating the governor’s mask mandate ban to court. The lawsuit for the children read, according to The Dallas News:
‘In spite of national and local guidance urging precaution, Governor Abbott’s Executive Order prohibits local school districts from even considering whether to implement the most basic and effective COVID-19 prevention strategy in school settings.’
‘Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, asks for a temporary restraining order that allows local districts to require masks if they determine it to be necessary. Two of the 14 plaintiffs are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, from Richardson and Keller ISDs.’
Disability Rights Texas (DRT) represents children 12-year-old and younger with disabilities and underlying medical conditions such as Down syndrome, moderate to severe asthma, and chronic lung or heart conditions:
‘[These students have underlying medical coonditions] which carry an increased risk of serious complications or death in the event that they contract COVID-19.’
Attorney Kym Rogers said:
‘The ban on mask mandates is putting children with disabilities at significant risk and is discriminatory. We will do everything in our power to keep the Governor and TEA from pushing these children out of schools or endangering their lives.’
The attorneys wrote, as The Bloomberg News reported:
‘There are no viable alternatives for students with disabilities who cannot safely return to school in-person due to the Governor’s Executive Order and TEA’s Guidance. Defendants’ actions have put parents in the impossible situation of having to choose between the health and life of their child and educating their child.’
Tuesday was the first day of school for Stephanie Paresky’s son. He is an eight-year-old plaintiff from Richardson ISD. Her son’s lungs have been vulnerable to infection. As a result, his mother has put him in virtual school beginning March 2020. But they would like to see him back in school. She said:
‘He was so excited and happy to get back to school today. I’ve honestly never seen him more excited. He was just so happy to be back in class, with his friends.’
Richardson ISD used a recent temporary restraining order from a Travis County judge to justify keeping its mask mandate in place. The city is near Dallas. Paresky said:
‘It’s definitely a risk sending him to school, but we want to give him an education that everyone else is receiving. We don’t want him to have lesser just because he’s at-risk.’
Disability Rights’ attorneys claimed that Abbott and TEA prohibited school districts from a mask mandate for all students and staff. They said that this mandate keeps students with disabilities from safely coming back to school.
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