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Texas Supreme Court ruling says Cypress-Fairbanks district has the authority to order teachers back to work

Aug. 18, 2020
The teachers union had contended in a lawsuit that the district was not following safety measures to deter the spread of Covid-19.

The Texas Supreme Court has suspended a temporary restraining order issued against the Cypress-Fairbanks school district, clearing the way for the district to have teachers report back to their classrooms.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the court's decision comes days after a Harris County District court told the state's third-largest school district that educators could not be compelled to return until Sept. 8.

Although most of the case is still pending, the decision represents a setback for the Cypress-Fairbanks chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, which filed a lawsuit on Friday. The teachers association had asked a judge to prevent the district from mandating that teachers return to their campuses for several weeks of professional development.

The district's first day of school is Sept. 8, and all students who have opted to take classes in person will return to classrooms that day.The judge had issued the temporary restraining order Friday, siding with the teachers union.

However, teachers received an email Sunday evening telling them that they could do undertake professional development remotely on Monday, but they would have to come back to their schools on Tuesday because of the Supreme Court's order.

The debate over how and when to bring teachers and students back to schools this fall has grown tense in the Cypress-Fairbanks district. Last week, more than 50 teachers and supporters protested the district's reopening plans outside Cy-Fair's regular board meeting.

However, Superintendent Mark Henry has said repeatedly that virtual instruction pales in comparison to what can be offered in person.

The union says it felt compelled to act to protect teachers because not every school in the 116,000-student district was following safety protocols.

"We are frustrated and gravely concerned, especially for our medically fragile members, when we hear masks are encouraged rather than required," the Cy-Fair AFT said in a Facebook post. "School leaders enforce dress codes they believe are professional for staff or appropriate for students, but they are not able to enforce mask-wearing to ensure the safety of everyone on campus? That double standard exemplifies the misplaced priorities of those who forced us into having no other choice than to take legal action.

"The behaviors modeled by campus administrators and all employees during this professional development period will be the behaviors that set the standard for our students when they return.I f we can not get it right and take this seriously as adults, then how do we guarantee the safest environment for our students?"

MORE: Facebook post from the Cypress-Fairbanks chapter of the American Federation of Teachers after the court ruling:

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