Salado ISD in Central Texas to keep mask policy in place despite threat from AG Paxton

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 4:15 PM CDT
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SALADO, Texas (KWTX) - Salado Independent School District Superintendent Michael Novotny said Wednesday his district will continue with its face mask policy for students and staff despite the threat of a lawsuit from the Office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

“It really just seems like a threat tactic to pressure districts to not defy or disobey the governor’s order,” said Novotny.

Salado ISD and the Connally Independent School District both received a warning letter from Paxton for non-compliance with the order issued by Texas Governor Greg Abbott banning face mask mandates by public entities in the state. The letter accuses the districts of enacting some form of a mask mandate in violation of Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38.

Paxton has already filed a lawsuit against four Waco-area school districts - McGregor, La Vega, Waco and Midway - for the same reason.

Salado ISD’s policy is that masks will remain optional but will become mandatory for seven days if two percent or more of a campus’ population tests positive for COVID-19. Earlier this month, the district required masks at its middle school from September 2nd to the 8th.

The district said the attorney general’s letter seems redundant considering there are already several pieces of litigation pending regarding the same matter.

“What we are trying to do here is to protect our students and our employees and our parents and keep our schools open, " said Novotny. “And I think those are worthy and non-political priorities for our district and I just wish others will allow us to do that.”

Ron Beal, a former Baylor Law professor, filed an amicus brief attached to the lawsuit. Beal said the lawsuit by Paxton is not only unnecessary, but detrimental to taxpayers considering tax-payer dollars would be used by both the AG’s office and the school districts in fighting the legal battle.

“The four big schools [Houston ISD, San Antonio ISD, ] hired very highfalutin law firms so I am sure they’re going to spend two or $300,000 on this,” Beal said.

He estimates that if district courts don’t issue a halt school districts who are facing a suit may spend upwards of $50,000 in legal fees. “If we are going to get this thing settled then why is (Paxton) wasting the money of all the school districts to get lawyers and answer the complaints,” said Beal.

Connally ISD could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

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