This story has been updated.

The Texas Supreme Court temporarily halted San Antonio Independent School District’s staff vaccine mandate on Thursday, a day before the deadline for all employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The ruling comes two weeks after a Bexar County judge denied the state’s request for a temporary injunction to stop the staff vaccine mandate. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office appealed that decision to the 4th Court of Appeals and also requested the court temporarily block the mandate while it considers Paxton’s appeal.

The 4th Court of Appeals denied the attorney general’s request to temporarily block the vaccine mandate. Paxton then requested the Texas Supreme Court step in and halt the mandate, which it did Thursday while stating the court’s decision is not a reflection “on the merits of the state’s claims.” The appeals court still has to rule on the state’s appeal of the temporary injunction that was denied by the Bexar County judge on Oct. 1.

“No local entity is above state law,” Paxton said in a statement following the Supreme Court’s action. “I am glad to see that the Supreme Court of Texas has again confirmed that the Governor’s decisions control at both the state and local levels. This decision should serve as a reminder to all Texas school districts that they should be using their limited funds on educating children and equipping teachers, not defending unlawful vaccine mandates.”

On Aug. 16, SAISD instituted a vaccine mandate for all staff members requiring them to be vaccinated by Oct. 15. SAISD school board President Christina Martinez said Thursday that the district remains committed to protecting the safety of staff and students.

“We will not let this deter our desire to have as many people on our campuses vaccinated and safe,” she said.

While the Supreme Court’s ruling means SAISD must pause its vaccine mandate, the district said in a statement that it will continue to work with health care providers to offer vaccines to any employees, students, and families who want them.

“This is especially important as we anticipate the availability of the Pfizer vaccine for 5-11-year-old children in the next month. We remain committed to believing it’s the right thing to do,” the district said in the statement. “We are extremely proud of our efforts in providing abundant access to this life-saving protocol to all of our employees and the broader SAISD community. Based on the science, we continue to feel strongly that these vaccines help us keep our staff and students as healthy as possible and in the classroom, where learning happens best, and in giving our families stability.”

This is the second time Paxton has sued SAISD over its vaccine mandate, which the lawsuit alleges is in violation of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting entities who receive state funding to require COVID-19 vaccinations. Paxton first sued SAISD in August, but that suit was dropped after the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. He filed the second lawsuit in early September.

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.