Federal government denies risk of staffing shortages in response to LISD lawsuit

Published: Dec. 24, 2021 at 2:08 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The federal government says any harm Lubbock ISD could face from a COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandate at its Head Start programs pales in comparison to the threat of COVID-19 in pre-K.

That’s the government’s defense against the district’s request to block the mandates from going into effect.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services is asking a federal court to keep the timeline that requires full vaccination against COVID-19 by Jan. 31, and will require masks in all federally-funded Head Start programs, like the one at Lubbock ISD, for everyone indoors.

In a 72-page response submitted Thursday night, the government lays out the threat of COVID-19 and its variants to the public, and focuses on how safe, effective, and widely-available the formulas are.

To the secretary, that justifies the requirements, claiming the public health interests outweigh the district’s problems.

In its original petition, Lubbock ISD claims these mandates will cost it employees, and students.

Court records show at least one employee has already told the district he would quit if he had to get a vaccine.

Superintendent Kathy Rollo testified that she does not want to force parents to choose whether to allow staff to put and keep masks on their kids.

In the government’s response, it claims there’s no proof this mandate would cause staffing shortages in the district’s pre-K programs.

Instead, the secretary points to examples across the country showing vaccine mandates have the public health effect he intends, a higher percentage of vaccinated employees at all levels of an organization.

The State of Texas is also a plaintiff on this lawsuit, advocating on the district’s behalf.

It claims these mandates harmfully supersede state law, and Governor Abbott’s executive order banning vaccine mandates.

The government argues that Texas cannot simply sue on behalf of a subset of its citizens.

Health and Human Services argues this mandate is specific enough to not warrant action from the state government.

Plus, the secretary claims, just because someone is not vaccinated yet does not mean they are not willing to get vaccinated.

In order to block the requirement, the government wants proof the district will lose enough staff and students to warrant putting lives at risk due to infection.

This lawsuit is on a tight schedule. If the mandate is not blocked next week, the deadline for full vaccination is Jan. 31.

That means staff and volunteers would have only the first week of January to get their first shots, in time to get the second dose, and qualify.

Oral arguments are set for Dec. 30.

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