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AG Paxton: Education leaders should decide on reopening schools, not local health authorities

Ken Paxton
Posted at 12:47 PM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-01 17:51:58-04

Attorney General Ken Paxton today issued guidance on the opening of local schools for the upcoming school year during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The guidance was in response to a request from Stephenville Mayor Doug Svien.

"While playing an important role in protecting the health of school children and employees, local health authorities may not issue sweeping orders closing schools for the sole purpose of preventing future COVID-19 infections. Rather, their role is limited by statute to addressing specific, actual outbreaks of disease. School officials, both public and private, are the appropriate ones to decide whether, when, and how to open school," according to a press release by Paxton.

“Education of our children is an essential Texas value and there is no current statewide order prohibiting any school from opening,” said Attorney General Paxton. “While local health authorities may possess some authority to close schools in limited circumstances, they may not issue blanket orders closing all schools on a purely preventative basis. That decision rightfully remains with school system leaders.”

Both Bell County and McLennan County local health authorities have delayed in-person instruction for schools.

However, McLennan County rescinded the order on July 28.

Dr. Janice Smith, Local Health Authority for the Bell County Public Health District issued the following statement:

"We are currently reviewing Attorney General Paxton’s letter. We are also continuing discussions with the area Superintendents. I believe we are all seeking the best cooperative and collaborative approach in our collective efforts to best plan for, and provide for, the health of our children, families and communities."

Read a copy of the letter here.