LISD First Day

Parents drop off their children at Clarence W. Bailey Elementary School for the first day of the school year on Monday August 16, 2021. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

The Texas Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday said it had filed a lawsuit against Longview ISD to force the district to rescind or stop enforcing its mask mandate.

The lawsuit against Longview ISD is among nine the office filed against a growing number of public school districts and other entities across the state for enacting policies that require masks or face coverings to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I have filed 9 more lawsuits against the following ISDs for defying Exec. Order 38: La Vega, McGregor, Midway, Waco, Diboll, Lufkin, Longview, Paris and Honey Grove,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a post on the Texas Attorney General’s branded Facebook page. “There will be more to come as lawlessness continues across the state.”

The governor’s executive order bars local officials from compelling people to wear masks.

On his own verified Facebook page, Paxton said, “We will continue until we have law and order.”

A request for a copy of the lawsuit from the AG’s office went unfulfilled on Tuesday.

Longview ISD officials issued the mandate for the district effective Aug. 23 as the number of COVID-19 cases in students and staff members began to increase after school started.

District spokesman Francisco Rojas did not respond Tuesday afternoon to attempts to reach him for comment about how the district would answer.

On Tuesday afternoon, the district reported 163 active COVID-19 cases in students and staff members, with a total of 407 cases since the start of the school year.

The lawsuit follows a Sept. 3 letter to Longview ISD Superintendent James Wilcox from Austin Kinghorn, general counsel in the Texas AG’s Office.

“Your district recently enacted a local policy mandating that students and faculty wear face masks while at school,” Kinghorn wrote in the letter. “This mandate exceeds your district’s authority as restricted by Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38, which states that ‘[n]o governmental entity, including a county, city, school district, and public health authority, and no governmental official may require any person to wear a face covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering[.]’”

On its website, the Texas AG’s Office lists Longview ISD among dozens of school districts, cities and counties that it says are not in compliance with the governor’s order.

On Tuesday afternoon, Paxton’s office also won a temporary restraining order against Paris ISD and its mask mandate.

The 6th District Court in Lamar County ruled Paris ISD is “prohibited from enforcing a facemask mandate for as long as GA-38 (or a future executive order containing the same prohibitions) remain in effect.”

A hearing about the state’s application for a temporary injunction against Paris ISD is set for next week.

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