This story has been updated.

Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the San Antonio Independent School District on Thursday over its vaccination mandate for staff.

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez issued a mask mandate for all students and staff on Monday, after a state district judge handed down a temporary order allowing San Antonio and Bexar County to require masks in city- and county-owned buildings as well as in public schools. Martinez also issued a vaccine mandate for district staff members, going a step further than the order and other school districts.

SAISD is the third-largest district in the county, with about 46,000 students enrolled. More than 90% of the staff have already received the coronavirus vaccine, but the deadline for those who have not is Oct. 15.

Paxton filed his lawsuit against SAISD in Bexar County. In his request for a temporary restraining order barring SAISD from requiring vaccines, he said Martinez and the school 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.

“The Texas Legislature made the Governor — not some patchwork of county judges, city mayors, or superintendents — the leader of the State’s response to and recovery from a statewide emergency,” Paxton wrote, referring to cities, counties, and school districts around Texas that have defied the executive order in some way.

Bexar County and San Antonio first sued the governor on Aug. 10 over his prohibition of mask mandates. Immediately after they secured a temporary injunction that allowed them to require masks in city and county buildings and in schools, Paxton filed an appeal with the 4th Court of Appeals; that court has not taken action yet.

Paxton has made clear that he is watching school districts that are “noncompliant” with the governor’s executive order and requiring masks in schools, posting a list of more than 50 school districts including San Antonio, North East, Lackland, Judson, Harlandale, Edgewood, and Fort Sam Houston ISDs.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff praised SAISD’s vaccine mandate, calling Martinez “a hero, because he tried to protect children.”

“The attorney general sued him today; that’s a badge of honor as far as I’m concerned,” Wolff said. “I want to thank him for mandating masks and for requiring vaccinations.”

SAISD said it could not comment on the lawsuit itself, citing “pending litigation.”

“Separate from that, it is our state and federal responsibility to protect children in our charge, and we will continue to act in the best interests of our students, families and community,” the school district said in a statement. “We will continue to adhere to the directives from our local health authority and guidance from the CDC in order to be the most responsive to what our immediate community is demanding and expecting from us.”

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.