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On Dec. 31, 2021, United States District Judge James Wesley Hendrix granted plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction prohibiting schools from implementing and enforcing the Interim Final Rule with Comment Period, Vaccine and Mask Requirements to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs.

Muleshoe ISD was one of the schools seeking the injunction.

 “Lubbock was the lead school district. We were involved,” said Dr. R.L. Richards, MISD superintendent. “Not all schools filed suit, but MISD joined in to the injunction.”

In the 56-page Memorandum Opinion and Order, Case 5:21-cv-00300-H Document 42 Filed 12/31/21, “The Court orders that defendants are preliminarily enjoined from implementing and enforcing the Interim Final Rule with Comment Period, Vaccine and Mask Requirements to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs … in the state of Texas pending a trial on the merits of this action or until further order of this Court. Defendants shall immediately cease all implementation or enforcement of the Interim Final Rule with Comment Period as to any Head Start program within the State of Texas.”

“It will apply to all of Texas, but not to all of the circuit courts,” Richards said.

According to online sources, 24 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the mandate and requested the preliminary injunction on Dec. 21, 2021. In Texas, Executive Order GA 38 prohibits a governmental entity or a governmental official from requiring any person to wear a face covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering. Executive Order GA 39 prohibits government entities from compelling individuals to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

The injunction leaves the two executive orders effectively in force.

At this time, the MISD Head Start program has 58 students and 10 staff members including five teachers and five aides.

Richards said temperature checks and other prevention measures are still in place.

“We’re still trying to protect the kids. But there are problems and issues with the masks. It’s hard to teach phonics if kids can’t see your lips or your mouth movements. So, if a teacher trying to teach and can’t show them, if the kids can’t see if they’re doing ‘t’ correctly … We’re already dealing with kids that don’t have English as a language, kids from Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico. It’s hard enough to teach phonics when they do know English as a second language. Imagine trying to teach kids without their seeing mouths or facial expressions.

“We have some staff members that will not vaccine due to medical reasons, and how do we decide which ones have to and which don’t? There are some who don’t want the vaccine for religious reasons, and that puts us on the spot with the Civil Rights Act over freedom of religion.”

Richards said that if the vaccine mandate were implemented, the program would have lost staff. At a meeting with Head Start staff following the injunction, “Three shook their heads that they wouldn’t work here if they were to mandate vaccines. We already have a teacher shortage. The other big issue had to do with the rights of the federal vs. the state government.”

According to https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohs/about/history-head-start, Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children from birth to age 5 from low-income families. It is administered through Health and Human Services.

Richards said Head Start funding amounts to $230,000, or $2,958.58 per pupil per year to the school district.

The ruling can be found at https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/texas/txndce/2:2021cv00229/355962/53/

BY GAIL M. WILLIAMS

Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

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