Texas AG Paxton: Local Health Authorities Cannot Close Schools

Attorney General Ken Paxton today issued guidance on the opening of local schools for the upcoming school year, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, responding to a request from Stephenville Mayor Doug Svien. While playing an important role in protecting the health of school children and employees, local health authorities may not issue sweeping orders closing schools for the sole purpose of preventing future COVID-19 infections. Rather, their role is limited by statute to addressing specific, actual outbreaks of disease. School officials, both public and private, are the appropriate ones to decide whether, when, and how to open school.  

“Education of our children is an essential Texas value and there is no current statewide order prohibiting any school from opening,” said Attorney General Paxton. “While local health authorities may possess some authority to close schools in limited circumstances, they may not issue blanket orders closing all schools on a purely preventative basis. That decision rightfully remains with school system leaders.”

Read a copy of the letter here.

During a County Commissioners Court meeting, the idea of taking Paxton to court was brought up by Commissioner Adrian Garcia. It's something State Senator Paul Bettencourt says he'd like to see, because the county doesn't have a legal leg to stand on.

"The law is just really clear. If the county wants to make the mistake of fighting the Attorney General on this I'll predict they will lose," Bettencourt told our TV partner Channel 2.

Elsewhere:

  • County ISD's are scrambling because of the Hidalgo order. Humble ISD is offering four learning options and conducting an online survey through Friday.
  • The Spring Branch ISD Board meets today and will be trying to figure out their academic year in the wake of the Hidalgo order.
  • Alvin ISD says they will do a phased re-opening starting on August 24th with virtual learning.

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