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Parents sue Katy ISD over mask policy

The lawsuit claims district policies are unconstitutional and violate Texas Governor Greg Abbott's recent executive order that lifted the mask mandate.
Credit: KHOU

KATY, Texas — A group of parents is suing the Katy Independent School District, calling its continued requirement for masks in schools unconstitutional. They say it's a violation of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order from last month that lifted the statewide mask mandate.

Under the updated guidance, the TEA said school boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy and the mask requirement may continue unchanged. Only a few local districts have lifted or modified their mask requirements since then.

Katy ISD currently has a total of 281 active COVID-19 cases, according to its dashboard.

Under Katy ISD’s policies, students who don’t comply with the mask policy will be moved to online school and aren’t allowed to participate in other student activities. Those who have medical conditions that preclude them from wearing masks must notify the school nurse and have documentation from their medical provider, according to the policy.

Jared Woodfill, the Houston attorney who filed the lawsuit, said the policy is illegal.

RELATED: List: Here's what Houston-area school districts are doing with statewide mask order lifted

“You don’t create a policy that is geared around a minority,” Woodfill said of the fraction of students and teachers who are at risk because of health conditions. “You don’t shut down and force 99.9% of the people to wear a mask all day long."

The lawsuit cites multiple international studies that show children are at low risk from COVID-19 and that masks do not prevent the spread of the virus. Although children are infected at lower rates, they are capable of spreading the virus to at-risk family members, and children with disabilities, who are immunosuppressed or who have other health conditions are still at high risk for severe symptoms from the virus, according to the CDC.

But experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say attending school in person can be relatively safe, if schools can contain the community spread of COVID-19 and follow safety procedures — including the universal and correct use of masks.

When Abbott announced his executive order, he did not address the ways rescinding the mask mandate affected public schools. In a later interview with radio host Chad Hasty, Abbott said he expected the Texas Education Agency to leave the decision to require masks up to local school boards.

The lawsuit was filed in Houston Thursday on behalf of parents Bonnie Anderson, Jenny Alexander, Doug Alexander, Heather Calhoun and Stephen Calhoun.

This story is from our news partners at the Texas Tribune. Read more stories from around the state.

Katy ISD released the following statement regarding the lawsuit

Katy ISD continues to follow the Governor’s Executive Order GA-34 and comply with theTexas Education Agency’s Public Health Planning Guidance that states “every student, teacher or staff member shall wear a mask over the nose and mouth when inside a school building, school facility…or when in an outdoor space on school property used for school activities, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household...”