Big districts require masks, defying governor's order

With the delta variant contributing to a spike in COVID-19 cases across Texas, many of the state's largest school districts issued mask mandates this week, defying Gov. Greg Abbott's executive ban on such requirements.

Austin and Dallas ISDs will require students and staff to wear masks, and Houston ISD is expected to follow, pending a vote at tonight's school board meeting. Fort Worth ISD is also considering a mask mandate as are Brownsville and several districts in the Houston area. While most districts in San Antonio say masks remain optional in keeping with Abbott's order, Bexar County has ordered a mask mandate for city and county facilities, including public schools. The list of districts requiring masks is likely to grow.

Just as in the earliest days of the pandemic, there are battles among various levels of government regarding who has ultimate authority. The legality of the governor’s order is currently under litigation in several courts and the attorney general has filed an application with a court of appeals to reverse an order by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins mandating masks in Dallas County schools. Abbott has asked the Supreme Court to end all restraining orders judges have issued against his mask mandate ban. There will be other court cases over the issue of whether school boards have authority that takes precedence over the governor’s authority to issue emergency executive orders of this nature.

TEA has also recognized that the legal issues surrounding mask mandates or prohibitions are now in the hands of the courts. The following statement was issued by TEA today: 
"In light of the conflict currently being resolved in the courts  between Executive Order GA-38 and certain local orders and actions,  TEA is refraining from issuing updated public health guidance at this time."
TCTA members with questions or concerns about their district's policies should call 888-879-8282 to speak with a staff attorney.

TCTA continues to update our COVID-19 FAQs for the 2021-22 school year. Along with public health guidance, it also includes information from TEA about remote conferencing for students who need to quarantine for COVID-19.
Education bills moving in Senate, House lacks quorum

While the Texas House still lacks a quorum to conduct business, the Senate is off to a quick start in the first week of the second special session. Several education bills are moving through the chamber, including full Senate approval of a 13th check for TRS retirees. SB 9, which requires instruction and policies relating to the prevention of child abuse and family and dating violence, was also approved and sent to the House.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved more education bills, including:
  • SB 3, commonly referred to as the "critical race theory" bill.
  • SB 2, relating to how transgender students participate in school sports.
SB 15 would allow some continued remote instruction 

While most parents and educators are looking forward to a return to in-person instruction, districts have been asking state leaders to allow for continuing state funding for virtual education on a limited basis to accommodate certain students and/or extraordinary circumstances amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Abbott made the issue a priority during the second special session of the Texas Legislature.

Senate Bill 15, which passed the full Senate on Wednesday, includes several provisions to address virtual/remote learning options through Sept. 1, 2023, including these two recommended by TCTA:
  • A teacher cannot be assigned to a full-time virtual program unless the teacher agrees to the assignment in writing or the assignment is specifically stated in the teacher’s employment contract.
  • Teachers cannot be required to provide both virtual instruction and in-person instruction for a course during the same class period.
Join our legal session Aug. 21

Members are invited to join TCTA's staff attorneys at 10 a.m. Aug. 21 for the next Saturday Spotlight. They will review current legal issues, including COVID-19 concerns, and save time for your questions. Click here to register.

If you'd like to submit questions about general education issues ahead of the Saturday Spotlight, please email communications@tcta.org by Aug. 19. Members with questions about specific legal issues should call the legal department at 888-879-8282 to be connected with a staff attorney.
Registrar sues district, cites discrimination over disability

A registrar sued her former school district, arguing that it had failed to provide reasonable accommodations to her and discriminated against her based on her disability. The district court dismissed her case and she appealed to the Court of Appeals.

During the course of the lawsuit, the registrar argued that she had requested a reduced workload as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act during her grievance that had been filed prior to her medical leave. The court disagreed, noting that an employee with a disability is required to inform the employer of their need for accommodations and explain that the proposed adjustment in working conditions is due to a medical condition. In this case, the court determined that the registrar failed to meet that requirement. Click here to read more.
Texas OnCourse Academy launches learning resources

The Texas OnCourse Academy has relaunched on a new platform that is fully remote, on-demand and completely free for Texas educators. The Academy has up-to-date info on more than 25 different college and career readiness topics, including endorsements, financial aid and scholarships. There are also printable resources for students, answers to common student questions and links to helpful websites. Academy courses include a syllabus that allows you to find information in a hurry and a “Getting Started” page that walks you through completing your first module. Log in or create an account and see what’s new in the Academy.
Discounted tickets to Texas Schlitterbahn parks available

Schlitterbahn has restarted its corporate promotions program and TCTA members can once again purchase discounted tickets and get deals on food and drinks at Schlitterbahn's waterparks in New Braunfels and Galveston.

Log in to the member portal and click on Cost Saving Programs to access the links, username and password needed to save on trips to Schlitterbahn.
Renew your TCTA membership!

Renew your TCTA membership and make sure you're covered during the 2021-22 school year.
Invite your colleagues to join TCTA and earn $25 for every two eligible first-time active members you recruit with our Take 2/Make $25 program.
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