Texas school district sees loophole in Gov. Abbott’s ban, adds masks to dress code

A Texas school district says it found a way around Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates to fight COVID-19 ahead of the first day of classes Thursday — just add the coverings to the dress code.

The board for the Paris Independent School District amended its code to add masks late Tuesday, saying it retains authority over what its 3,900 students wear, and it is the best way to thwart the delta variant that is marching through the Lone Star State.

“The Board believes the dress code can be used to mitigate communicable health issues, and therefore has amended the [school district] dress code to protect our students and employees,” the board said. “The Texas governor does not have the authority to usurp the Board of Trustees’ exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the district. Nothing in the governor’s Executive Order 38 states he has suspended Chapter 11 of the Texas Education Code, and therefore the Board has elected to amend its dress code consistent with its statutory authority.”

The decision is a novel way to challenge Mr. Abbott, who himself tested positive for the coronavirus and is receiving a monoclonal antibody treatment from Regeneron to stave off symptoms or possible hospitalization.

The governor is vaccinated and hasn’t shown symptoms, but critics say Mr. Abbott’s infection reveals the risks of his no-restrictions strategy as the virus swirls in Texas, vaccination rates lag, and children under 12 wait to become eligible for the vaccine. The Regeneron treatment was famously given to former President Trump during his bout with the virus and can keep people out of the hospital, though the vaccine is considered a more efficient way to wrangle the virus over the long term.

About 45% of Texans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a rate that’s worse than the national rate of 51% and far worse than smaller New England states that have reached at least 65%.

A school district in Dallas decided to defy Mr. Abbott and a Texas Supreme Court ruling that upheld the governor’s ban on mask mandates earlier this week. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said he believes the ruling applied to Dallas County itself but not his schools.

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