Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed another petition seeking to reverse a Bexar County judge’s decision that rejected the state’s bid for a temporary injunction to block the San Antonio Independent School District’s staff vaccine mandate.

Even though SAISD’S vaccine mandate remains on pause despite the court’s ruling in its favor, Paxton said he will “continue fighting for medical freedom.”

“Nobody should be bullied, coerced, and certainly not fired because of their COVID-19 vaccination status,” said Paxon in his announcement, adding the decision is not only an affront to individual liberty, but “illegal under Texas law.”

“The governor’s executive order specifically protects workers from the type of mass firings that San Antonio ISD is seeking, and I will continue to fight in court to defend GA-39 and Texans’ medical freedom,” he said. 

The petition was filed Sept. 7 with the Texas Supreme Court.

An SAISD spokeswoman said in a statement that the vaccine mandate remains suspended and that no employee was ever disciplined for refusing to get the vaccine.

The lengthy legal battle between SAISD and Paxton began when SAISD first implemented the vaccine and mask mandate on Aug. 16, 2021, requiring all staff members be vaccinated within two months.

Three days later, Paxton sued former SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez and the district over both mandates. The lawsuit stated that the superintendent and the district were “deliberately violating state law,” as a July executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott prohibits any entity that receives public funds from mandating COVID-19 vaccines that had received only emergency approval from the federal government, though Abbott acknowledged not having the legal authority to enforce executive orders. 

The mask mandate lawsuit was dropped on Aug. 23 after the federal Food and Drug Administration granted full approval for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Two days later, Abbott issued a new executive order, banning governmental entities from requiring any COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of FDA approval status.

Paxton filed the second lawsuit against SAISD in Bexar County on Sept. 2021, seeking a temporary restraining order barring the school district from mandating vaccines. In the petition, Paxton claimed SAISD and Martinez were again violating state law by “flouting” the August executive order.

Weeks later, Judge Angelica Jimenez of the 408th District Court denied SAISD’s plea that Paxton lacked the legal authority to enforce Abbott’s Aug. 25 executive order.

Steve Chiscano, the attorney representing SAISD, immediately appealed the ruling, which delayed a hearing requested by the state to stop the vaccine mandate with a temporary restraining order. The district was still able to continue requiring its staff to get vaccinated despite the ruling. 

On Oct. 1, 2021, Judge Mary Lou Alvarez of the 45th District Court denied the state of Texas’ request for a temporary injunction, allowing SAISD to continue its vaccine mandate.

Two weeks later, Paxton’s office appealed Alvarez’s ruling to the 4th Court of Appeals and also requested the court temporarily block the mandate while it considered Paxton’s appeal. The attorney general then requested the state Supreme Court step in and halt the mandate, which it did in mid-October, a day before the deadline for all employees to get vaccinated against COVID. 

The Texas Supreme Court’s ruling forced SAISD to stop enforcing the mandate while the 4th Court of Appeals considered the state’s appeal of the temporary injunction that Alvarez denied.

In July, the appellate court upheld SAISD’s authority to mandate vaccinations for its workers, days after denying Paxton’s request to overturn the decision not to grant the state a temporary injunction to block the vaccine mandate. 

SAISD’s vaccine mandate remained on pause after the ruling by the 4th Court of Appeals, which determined that the Texas Disaster Act does not give Abbott the authority to suspend parts of the Education Code that allow school districts to issue vaccine mandates. 

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Raquel Torres

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. She previously worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph and is a 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.