RISD began requiring masks on all district properties Aug. 17. Superintendent Jeannie Stone made the announcement after consulting with health officials as well as the district’s legal advisers.
At the time, Stone said the district is legally allowed to require masks due to a separate ruling from a Travis County court that allows each Texas school district to make its own decision based on local conditions.
“This ruling, at least temporarily, puts this decision where it should be: at the local level,” she said in an Aug. 16 video statement.
In an emailed statement Sept. 10, district officials said RISD has not been served with such a lawsuit and the district does not comment on pending litigation.
The other school districts that Paxton announced are being sued are Round Rock, Galveston, Elgin, Spring and Sherman ISDs.
The news release from the office of the attorney general states additional lawsuits could be filed against school districts and other governmental entities that do not follow Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38.
“Not only are superintendents across Texas openly violating state law, but they are using district resources—that ought to be used for teacher merit raises or other educational benefits—to defend their unlawful political maneuvering,” Paxton said in a statement. “If districts choose to spend their money on legal fees, they must do so knowing that my office is ready and willing to litigate these cases. I have full confidence that the courts will side with the law—not acts of political defiance.”
The Texas Education Agency updated its public health guidance Aug. 19 to state it will not enforce the governor's order "as the result of ongoing litigation."
The RISD board of trustees voted 5-2 to join La Joya ISD's lawsuit against Abbott over his executive order during its Aug. 23 board meeting. Board members Eron Linn and Chris Poteet voted against joining the lawsuit.
“This action is about local control,” RISD board President Karen Clardy said in an Aug. 24 statement. “Locally elected boards of trustees have rights and responsibilities under Texas law to make decisions for their local school districts. With this vote, RISD joins with other Texas ISDs in an effort to protect that local control so school districts can make local decisions based on local conditions to determine what is safe for students and staff in our local communities.”