Federal judge suspends mask, immunization requirements for Head Start programs in Texas

Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 6:00 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction on Friday, saying the federal government cannot impose mask or vaccine mandates for staff or students in Head Start programs in Texas until the court takes further action or the matter goes to trial.

U.S. District Court Judge James Wesley Hendrix issued the order in response to Lubbock ISD’s request for a temporary restraining order.

Lubbock ISD and the State of Texas were hoping for a nationwide injunction, but this order only prevents the federal government from enforcing these rules in the State of Texas.

Lubbock ISD is challenging a rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that says all staff and volunteers at federally-funded Head Start programs must be fully immunized against COVID-19 by Jan. 31. They’re also ordering everyone to wear masks indoors, including the students.

The district has sworn statements showing some parents will pull their kids out of the program, and employees will quit.

LISD Superintendent Kathy Rollo testified that masking is distracting for students that young, and makes it more difficult for them to learn when they can’t see their teachers’ faces.

Lubbock ISD is using testimony from Texas Tech and other school districts... including Friona, Morton, and Muleshoe citing the same fears. The State of Texas is also a plaintiff in this case.

Attorney General Ken Paxton wanted a nationwide injunction against the policy until the case pans out, but was denied.

Paxton claims the federal government doesn’t have the authority to make these demands, and these orders go against Governor Abbott’s ban on these kinds of mandates.

In its defense filing, HHS claims the orders’ public health benefits outweigh the district’s concerns.

The Head Start program subsidizes pre-K education for low-income families, and the department says COVID-19 hits underprivileged households the worst.

Court records show 72 percent of Lubbock ISD’s families live at or below the poverty line.

The government argues that having these orders in Head Start programs will protect families and save lives.

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