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EPISD board votes for mask rule, will sue Abbott over ban

UPDATE: EPISD's board, with only one nay, voted 6-1 Tuesday night to impose a mask mandate for all teachers, staff and students in school facilities, effective Thursday, as well as take legal action against Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott over his ban on local school districts being able to implement such mask-wearing requirements.

The vote came after a lengthy discussion session that at one point was interrupted by anti-mask audience members who became rowdy and had to be cleared from the board room by school district police officers.

EPISD was one of two local school districts Tuesday night to approve a mask rule. The Socorro Independent School District took similar action.

You can watch the entire discussion and vote from the board meeting in the video player below.

ORIGINAL REPORT: EL PASO, Texas -- The El Paso Independent School District's Board of Trustees, at its meeting set for 5 p.m. Tuesday, will consider taking legal action against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over his executive order limiting the ability of local schools to issue face mask mandates to deal with Covid-19.

A revised agenda issued Tuesday morning for the regularly scheduled board meeting now lists "possible litigation" over Abbott's order as the top action item.

The EPISD meeting comes 24 hours after El Paso City/County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza defied the governor and issued a directive set to take effect Wednesday morning requiring that face coverings be worn at all indoor establishments, including schools. That mandate came following a request for it by County Judge Ricardo Samaniego.

The EPISD meeting also comes after El Paso City Council, in a move supporting Ocaranza, voted Monday night to file a lawsuit against Abbott. The city's legal position is that state law allows the Health Authority to impose emergency health mandates - and the governor can't override it with an executive order.

Numerous school districts and a handful of counties across the state have defied Abbott's order that restricted local entities from instituting mask mandates. Multiple lawsuits are currently pending over the issue; in one of those cases, the Texas Supreme Court temporarily upheld Abbott's order. Meantime, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, in a statement Monday night, vowed to defend the governor's order against additional legal challenges.

Abbott, a staunch mask opponent, was diagnosed Tuesday with a breakthrough case of Covid-19, meaning he tested positive despite having been vaccinated. Abbott testing positive for the virus came after he gave a speech to a gathering of hundreds this week in which there was reportedly little or mask wearing and social distancing.

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Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.


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