Texas Supreme Court prohibits school district from mandating employees have COVID vaccine

“No local entity is above state law,” Attorney General Ken Paxton says after winning temporary stay.

Updated: October 16, 2021 - 11:38pm

Employees of the San Antonio Independent School District are not required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment after the Texas Supreme Court intervened on Thursday.

No employees can be fired for not receiving the vaccine, and in the event anyone is fired, the Texas Attorney General’s office says they should call the office and let the AG’s staff know.

The Texas Supreme Court issued a temporary stay, halting enforcement of San Antonio ISD’s mandate requiring that all employees receive both COVID-19 doses by Friday (Oct. 15).

“No local entity is above state law,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement. “I am glad to see that the Supreme Court of Texas has again confirmed that the Governor’s decisions control at both the state and local levels. This decision should serve as a reminder to all Texas school districts that they should be using their limited funds on educating children and equipping teachers, not defending unlawful vaccine mandates.”

The court said it granted relief while it considered the state’s petition for writ of mandamus. It also said it expressed no view on the merits of the state’s claims.

The vaccine mandate lawsuits as well as lawsuits related to the mandating of mask wearing challenge the legality of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders, which use the Texas Disaster Act as a justification for issuing them.

Several lawsuits last year filed against the governor asked the court to address the 1975-era law, arguing that the executive orders fell outside the scope of the law. The law has never been challenged in its history.

The court also said it has “not yet had the opportunity to consider the merits of these challenges. Our role has been to issue orders preserving the status quo. In the case of local governmental entities seeking to impose new mask mandates, we stayed temporary-relief orders permitting those mandates.”

The state sued SAISD, and the district court ruled in favor of SAISD. The state appealed, and because the Oct. 15 deadline was fast approaching, the state appealed to the Supreme Court to intervene. The court’s ruling essentially put the mandate on hold until the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has the opportunity to hear the case.

During a school board meeting Tuesday, SAISD officials said that nearly 80% of its employees had either submitted a request for exemption or proof that they received both COVID-19 shots.

SAISD officials said in a statement that the Texas Supreme Court stay “means that [the district] must temporarily pause” its vaccine mandate as the case goes through the normal appeals process.

“We will continue to work with healthcare providers to coordinate vaccine clinics for those employees, students and family members who want them,” the district said. “We remain committed to believing it’s the right thing to do.”