The Dallas Independent School District, Texas' second-largest school district, will require students and staff to wear masks as the school year begins — in contradiction to Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order banning mask mandates.
The district, which has more than 20,000 teachers and 150,000 students, made the announcement Monday as COVID-19 cases are rising in the Lone Star State.
The Republican governor's May 18 executive order prohibits mask mandates in public schools past June 4, with violators facing fines of up to $1,000.
But Superintendent Michael Hinojosa on Monday told reporters it was unclear according to lawyers whether the fine was a one-time thing or not, CBS-DFW reported. Nevertheless, he said, "I felt now we are in an urgent crisis. Despite whatever authority the governor has, he is responsible for the state of Texas and I'm responsible for Dallas ISD."
"If I have to pay it out of my pocket or if the district has to pay it, who knows?" he said. ''We don't know if that is one time, per day, [or] if that is per individual. That executive order is very loose, according to our attorneys. But I'd rather face that consequence of having to pay some money than get further behind with these students."
"Effective Tuesday, August 10, to protect staff and students from the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, Dallas ISD is temporarily requiring all staff, students and visitors to wear masks when on district property," the school district posted on its website.
"Students under 12 are not eligible for a vaccine, however, school attendance is mandatory, and virtual learning is not an option at this time," the system noted. "In keeping with the top priority of safeguarding the health and well-being of staff and students, the district will continue to provide masks and sanitizer at district facilities and will continue contact tracing.
"Governor Abbott's order does not limit the district's rights as an employer and educational institution to establish reasonable and necessary safety rules for its staff and students. Dallas ISD remains committed to the safety of our students and staff."
Mask mandates have become a hot-button issue in schools and businesses across the country. Several Republican governors have issued executive orders prohibiting them, while Democratic governors have taken the opposite stance.
GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday threatened to withhold pay from superintendents and school board members who defy his executive order banning mask mandates.
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