Dallas schools to defy governor's order and require masks

A Dallas school district is defying Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) ban on mask mandates in schools and will require all staff, students and visitors to wear face coverings on district property beginning Tuesday.

The Dallas Independent School District (ISD) said the new measure comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Dallas County Health Officials have increased the local COVID-19 alert to level red, and reported that hospitalizations are increasing at the quickest pace since the beginning of the pandemic, including among children.

The district noted in a statement that while no vaccines are authorized for children under the age of 12, “school attendance is mandatory, and virtual learning is not an option at this time.”

It said it will provide masks and sanitizer at buildings within the district and continue contact tracing in "keeping with the top priority of safeguarding the health and well-being of staff and students.”

The new policy comes after Abbott signed an executive order in May that prohibited “governmental entities in Texas,” including school districts, counties, cities, public health authorities and government officials, from imposing mask mandates.

The governor’s office said that individuals who try to violate the order by requiring masks to be worn could be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

The Dallas ISD addressed Abbott’s executive order in its statement, writing that the governor demand “does not limit the district’s rights as an employer and educational institution to establish reasonable and necessary safety rules for its staff and students.”

“Dallas ISD remains committed to the safety of our students and staff,” the district added.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has signed a similar order prohibiting mask mandates in schools throughout the Sunshine State.

The orders have been met with opposition from public health experts and school administrators, both of whom are preparing for the fall semester when students plan on returning to classrooms for in-person instruction.

Those plans, however, may become more difficult to carry out as concerns are rising regarding the highly infectious delta variant, which has taken hold in the U.S. as the dominant strain of COVID-19.

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