Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order in June prohibiting state government entities, including schools, from requiring masks. Since then, several districts, including Dallas ISD, have defied the order.
The Texas Supreme Court has yet to make a definitive ruling on who holds legal authority to determine masking protocols.
The Sept. 28 lawsuit argues Abbott’s order is superseded by the 14th Amendment, which says no state “shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens; nor deprive any person of life, liberty or property ...”
The parents are seeking a temporary restraining order followed by a permanent injunction, which would require the district to implement mask mandates, according to the lawsuit.
Each of the parents who filed the lawsuit stated their children are too young to receive a vaccine, and all have been exposed to the Delta variant of COVID-19.
“Until vaccines are made available to children under 12 years old, plaintiffs and members of the proposed class face an imminent threat of harmful and potentially life-altering and life-threatening consequences if exposed to an environment bereft of universal masking,” the lawsuit reads.
A judge will determine whether the temporary restraining order is issued at a hearing. Attorney Martin Cirkiel, who represents the parents, said a date has not yet been set.
FISD declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said in a statement it “remains committed to providing the best possible learning environment for all students.”
The district announced in early October that it would extend its temporary virtual learning option for students in sixth grade and below until the end of the fall semester.
More than 4,400 students, parents and teachers have signed an online petition to get FISD to enforce COVID-19 restrictions and precautions. The petition was created by two high school students, Kate Shaw and Srinath Nandigam, and launched Aug. 26.
“I felt like starting the petition was the best bet at getting the school board to see that the conditions at school weren’t safe for students, parents and staff,” Shaw said. “I also hope that ... district leaders, as well as others, see that COVID[-19] is still a threat to our health and more needs to be done.”
The petition was presented in the Sept. 13 FISD school board meeting by Shaw and Nandigam during public comments. Multiple people spoke about their thoughts on COVID-19 restrictions and advocated for using masks in classrooms.
In a statement, FISD said it valued the feedback it received from the community and the students. In addition to public comment at board meetings, staff have also been contacted through other platforms by stakeholders, FISD Assistant Communications Director Meghan Cone said.
“FISD will continue to regularly review our Disease Mitigation Guidelines based on recommendations from health officials, guidance from the state and evolving local conditions related to COVID-19,” Cone said.