FORT WORTH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – State District Judge John Chupp has approved a restraining order against Fort Worth ISD by a group of parents, saying it lacks the authority to require face masks.
The legal petition would prevent enforcement of a mask mandate when school starts next week.
“If masks work, and you’re wearing a mask, why should I have to wear a mask?” said Judge Chupp during a zoom meeting with attorney Warren Norred.
Norred is representing Jennifer Treger, Todd Daniel, Kerri Rehmeyer, and an anonymous mom who filed suit against the district and Superintendent Dr. Kent Scribner.
Watch Entire Hearing
In a statement, Norred said, Scribner “appears to believe that he can make rules without bothering with following the Texas Open Meetings Act or actually following the science.”
The restraining order keeps Scribner from enforcing the mask rule, which violated the governor’s order. That was the basic argument parents made to the judge.
Parents argued that a local official can’t overrule the governor and that Scribner’s decision earlier this week violated the open meetings act. The decision happened without a school board vote.
School attorneys said a decision from a Dallas court had effectively suspended the governor’s order, which did not sit well with Judge Chupp. He asked repeatedly why a Dallas judge would have jurisdiction in Fort Worth.
The argument strayed into personal beliefs about which rules to follow, with Judge Chupp not agreeing with how Fort Worth ISD issued its rule this week.
“So I’m sitting here with status quo of being, no masks, until you all changed the status quo saying, masks. And you didn’t vote on it. You had one person, that’s the superintendent, that’s not elected, not accountable to anyone, that just gets to make up whatever he wants and violate an executive order from the governor,” Chupp said.
Fort Worth ISD released a statement on Friday’s decision, saying, “We believe Tuesday’s announcement regarding masks for students, employees, and visitors to our campuses was the right thing to do. However, we will certainly honor today’s court order blocking the mask requirement. Nevertheless, FWISD strongly recommends that all students, parents, employees and visitors, please, consider the importance of wearing a face mask while we are still in the midst of the pandemic and COVID cases remain high.”
Meanwhile, Crowley ISD and several other school districts were granted a temporary restraining order against Abbott’s ban on mask mandates by a Travis County district court judge.
“It’s suspend the governor’s order telling them that they can’t exercise the authority to operate their school districts that they think they have,” Crowley ISD attorney Kevin O’Hanlon said.
On Friday, the U.S. education secretary sent a letter to Abbott and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, saying, this “may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by Federal law.”
Arlington ISD is also now considering filing a lawsuit over Abbott’s order.
“We feel our school board and our community should have the decision making authority during this time of pandemic and other emergencies,” Arlington ISD Superintendent Dr. Marcelo Cavazos said.
The legal action is being drafted by district attorneys and will be reviewed at a school board meeting next Thursday.