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Lubbock ISD joins State of Texas in lawsuit against mask, vaccine mandates for Head Start programs

Published: Dec. 10, 2021 at 7:36 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Lubbock Independent School District is suing the federal government to block a vaccine and mask mandate targeting pre-K programs.

The district, along with the state of Texas, calls this requirement unconstitutional. It claims the mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human services oversteps the department’s authority over “Head Start” programs.

The Office of Head Start is a federal program providing funding, as well as “federal policy direction and a training and technical assistance” system to about 1 million eligible children and families at or below the poverty level across the country, including families and children in the foster system and those experiencing homelessness.

The order imposing a mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Head Start staff, volunteers, and contractors goes into effect next month. It would require all pre-K employees and volunteers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and would require masks for children over the age of two.

LISD Head Start staff includes 70 teachers, 70 teaching assistants, one Lead Head Start specialist, 12 Head Start specialists, two instructional coaches, one data specialist, one secretary, one Head Start manager, and one Head Start Director.

According to Lubbock ISD Superintendent Kathy Rollo, the district currently serves 1,265 children in Pre-K 3 and 4-year-old programs, including 556 students who qualify for federal Head Start funding through a grant. “lf LISD were to comply with the mask requirement, we could potentially lose many of the students who are [currently] enrolled in the program, disrupting the progress that has been made,” Dr. Rollo states.

Dr. Rollo says LISD has encouraged vaccinations since they were first made available in January of 2021. “ln an anonymous survey conducted in August before school started, 84% of LISD’s staff reported having received at least one vaccine dose. This high rate of staff vaccination has been achieved without a mandate.” The lawsuit claims having a mandate for a subset of employees creates inequity in staff expectations.

The lawsuit filed Friday evening also indicates the government knows it would be tough to keep masks on toddlers, and argues that time focusing on masking will take away from childhood education.

According to the lawsuit, this mandate will also force parents to choose whether they will allow staff to force masking on their kids, or withdraw those kids from the programs.

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