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Bills filed in Texas' second special session aim to make schools safer

HB 227 would allow school districts to mandate masks and require them to tell parents if a student in their child's class tests positive for COVID-19.

AUSTIN, Texas — A bill regarding COVID-19 safety policies in public schools has been filed in the Texas House of Representatives.

House Bill 227 would allow a board of trustees or governing body of a school district or open-enrollment charter school to require face coverings in school buildings and busses. It also would require school districts to let parents know if a student in their child’s class tested positive for the coronavirus.

Those written or electronic notices would have to include recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and could not name the student who tested positive.

Democratic Rep. Rafael Anchia, who represents Dallas, is the author of HB 227. It was filed in the House on Wednesday.  

The Texas House met quorum for the first time since July 12 during the Legislature’s second special session last week. As long as a quorum is present, it can continue to conduct business, including passing bills.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order in July stating no state or local agency or entity that receives public funds could mandate masks. However, several school districts across Central Texas have chosen to defy that order.

Meanwhile, in the Texas Senate, local Sen. Sarah Eckhardt has filed a series of bills aiming to make schools safer.

“The threat of COVID is real, and the recent spike in cases proves that the current state strategy is failing to keep Texans safe, leading to ICUs at capacity and Texans unable to receive critical healthcare," said Sen. Eckhardt. “Throughout this crisis, our local governments and school districts have been leaders, keeping Texans healthy and alive. In the absence of state leadership, we should let them get back to leading. Even before Gov. Abbott added COVID vaccines to the call, I filed a series of bills to use evidence-based practices to make our schools, and the rest of the state, safer in the face of COVID."

She says the bills would:

  • Add a vaccine for COVID-19 (like the fully FDA-approved Pfizer/BioNTech) to the list of vaccines required to attend Texas public school. Currently, public school students are required to be vaccinated for Tetanus, Polio, MMR, Hepatitis B, Varicella, Meningitis, and Hepatitis A
  • Restore the requirement for public schools to follow COVID-19 guidelines issued by local public health authorities based on local impacts
  • Empower the Department of State Health Services to collect data necessary to fully understand the scope of COVID in Texas, as well as ensure data is being collected accurately, timely, and transparently

Her bills include:

  • Senate Bill 85 - Relating to the implementation by public schools of certain COVID-19 public health orders issued by a health authority.
  • Senate Bill 86 - Relating to the immunization of public school students against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
  • Senate Bill 87 - Relating to health care facility reporting of COVID-19 data.


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