Federal judge ruling stops Texas Head Start programs from requiring masks, vaccinations

Ken Paxton in suit at a desk holding stolen pen and examining a document
Attorney General Ken Paxton

Last Friday, a U.S. district judge granted a temporary injunction to ban mask and vaccination requirements in Texas Head Start centers. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lubbock ISD sued the federal government for requiring vaccinations for Head Start staff and mask use for staff and most students. Head Start—administered by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, but run by school districts and other providers throughout the state—provides childcare, early learning, and health-related services for children of low-income families. The requirements were part of widespread orders by the Biden Administration for federal employees and federally-funded programs.

Lubbock ISD officials stated they were concerned about the federal requirements deterring enrollment and attendance. However, many Head Start program leaders have stated the requirements will help protect program shut-downs from infected staff and students. But Paxton’s pursuit was grounded in his continuing battles against masks and vaccination requirements in all school environments. Gov. Greg Abbott has issued orders banning employer vaccination and mask mandates. 

Lawsuits over the ban on mask mandates are in limbo with a November Federal Appeals Court ruling in Abbott’s favor that the order can proceed—followed by a State Appeal Court ruling yesterday that said Harris County could institute mask regulations and not follow the governor’s order. Many school districts have defied Abbott’s orders by requiring masks, which resulted in at least 15 lawsuits by Paxton against districts.

Paxton also has sued the federal government for its vaccine requirements for federally-funded healthcare workers and members of the Texas National Guard.