(The Center Square) – Within 24 hours of Attorney General Ken Paxton suing San Antonio ISD Pedro Martinez for mandating that all employees receive two COVID-19 shots or be terminated, Martinez reversed the policy.
Last week, Martinez sent an ultimatum to staff members in a letter requiring all staff to receive both COVID-19 shots by Oct. 15 as a condition of employment.
“We strongly believe that the best path forward as a school district is to require all staff to become vaccinated against COVID-19," he said. "And the timing is now. This is a profound moment where we can choose to lead by example.”
He also sent a letter to parents stating the district’s policy to implement a mask mandate, in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning public entities from requiring them.
On Friday, Martinez issued a district-wide “clarification,” saying he “will not compel any staff members to be vaccinated until the vaccines are fully approved by the FDA.”
Of Martinez’s reversal, Paxton said, “State law could not be clearer: ‘No governmental entity can compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization.’ But San Antonio ISD tried to play by its own set of rules. Thankfully, we stopped them.
“The law states that ‘receiving a COVID-19 vaccine under an emergency use authorization is always voluntary in Texas and will never be mandated by the government.’ I will always fight to support the rule of law."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday gave full approval for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, one of three with wide use in the U.S. Moderna's and Johnson & Johnson's vaccines still are approved for emergency use only.
Abbott has repeatedly said that vaccines are strictly voluntary in the state of Texas, never forced. He also signed SB 968 into law prohibiting businesses that receive state funds from implementing vaccination requirements.
Martinez issued the mandate on the same day a Bexar County judge ruled that local officials could require mask mandates in schools, defying Abbott’s executive order. Cases related to challenging Abbott’s order are proceeding through courts this week.
Abbott argues his order has the force and effect of state law and supersedes local rules and regulations, citing the Texas Disaster Act of 1975.
Paxton has put many school districts on notice, arguing, “No governmental entity – which includes counties, cities, and school districts – may require mandating the COVID-19 shot, the showing of vaccine passports, COVID-19 related limitations, or mask mandates. NO GOVERNMENT IN TEXAS MAY IMPOSE A MASK MANDATE. Yet too many local officials continue to violate this law. I will sue every single local entity and local official who does. And if they continue to disobey, I will pursue additional legal sanctions.”
Paxton's office posted a list of school districts that “have unlawfully imposed mask mandates,” and says his office will ensure they follow the law.
Meanwhile, Democrats continue to advocate for school districts to defy Abbott’s order. State Sen. Jose Menéndez, D-San Antonio, launched a legal defense fund to help school districts pay fines when they defy Abbott's executive order.
Ground Game Texas and Safe Schools for All created a site to raise “at least $100,000 to protect at least 100 school districts that stand up to Abbott. It is Abbott's emergency order GA-38 that threatens $1,000 fines and prevents many school districts from implementing universal masking policies ….”