San Antonio ISD vaccine mandate upheld by Fourth Court of Appeals

SAN ANTONIO – The Fourth Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that San Antonio ISD can keep its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees.

The ruling affirmed the trial court’s order that denied the State of Texas’ temporary injunction.

An SAISD spokesperson said, for now, the district’s mandate is still on pause, but said the lawsuit still sets an important precedent.

“The school district’s ability to provide for the health and safety of its staff and students is essential, and this court ruling makes clear that the Governor may not override the school district’s statutory authority,” said SAISD Interim Chief Communications Officer Laura Short.

Following the ruling, a district spokesperson issued the following statement:

“Today, we are gratified to learn the Fourth Court of Appeals upheld San Antonio ISD’s power to take action to protect the safety and health of students, staff, and visitors. The ruling affirmed the trial court’s denial of the State’s request for a temporary injunction against SAISD’s vaccine mandate. The district implemented a vaccine mandate in August 2021 when the FDA announced it was about to grant full approval of available COVID-19 vaccines.

“In the Fourth Court of Appeals ruling, it was determined that the provisions of the Education Code permitting the school district to issue its vaccine mandate are not subject to suspension by the Governor under the Texas Disaster Act, and we fully support this ruling.

“Our district led the way with our response to COVID-19. No matter the challenge before us – whether a pandemic or other school safety issue – it is our state and federal responsibility to protect children in our charge, and we will always act in the best interests of our students, families and community.”

Attorney General Ken Paxton launched the lawsuit against the school district last September after Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order that prohibited government entities from requiring COVID-19 vaccines.

San Antonio ISD was the first district in the state to announce the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for employees, with a few exemptions allowed due to disability or religious reasons.

Thursday’s ruling confirmed that executive orders at the state level are neither superior or inferior to a local order saying, “we again conclude that the Governor does not possess absolute authority under the Texas Disaster Act to preempt orders issued by governmental entities and officials.”

The Court also affirmed that the district’s vaccine mandate did not violate Section 418.018(c) of the Texas Disaster Act, which states that the governor may control ingress and egress to and from a disaster area, so Abbott’s Executive Order GA-39 would not apply in this case.

“… nothing in the District’s vaccine mandate precludes individuals from entering the schools within the district because they are not vaccinated. Instead, the District’s vaccination mandate specifically applies only to employees as a condition of employment, not as a condition of “ingress and egress,” “occupancy of premises,” or “movement of persons within the school district.”

Wednesday’s ruling comes a day after a divided New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Abbott’s executive order forbidding school districts from imposing mask mandates at schools.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed on behalf of students with disabilities who said that the lack of a masking requirement at their schools endangered their health.

The ruling ended a lower federal court injunction allowing such mandates.

Read the July 27, 2022, Fourth Court of Appeals ruling on COVID-19 vaccine mandates:

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