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Fort Worth ISD votes to join lawsuit against Gov. Abbott’s ban on school mask mandates

The district will continue to “strongly recommend” masks, but it will not mandate them.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Fort Worth ISD will join a lawsuit filed by other school districts against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over his ban on mask mandates in public schools.

But, the district will only “strongly recommend” masks, not mandate them, as the lawsuit works its way through the court system.

It’s the latest chapter in a battle over masks that has given Texas families whiplash as they try to follow multiple lawsuits filed by and against several school districts across the state.

On Aug. 10, Fort Worth ISD superintendent Keith Scribner announced he was instituting a mask mandate at all school campuses.

RELATED: Before Fort Worth ISD mask requirement, pediatricians urged district to 'please help us'

He told WFAA his decision was based on a letter signed by more than 125 physicians from Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth recommending masks inside schools.

Two days later, a group of Fort Worth ISD parents filed suit. A district judge ruled in the parents’ favor, blocking Scribner’s mask requirement.

RELATED: District court ruling blocks Fort Worth ISD mask requirement

Fort Worth ISD board members spent almost two hours in a closed-door session Tuesday night discussing legal options before voting to join the Travis County litigation.

The closed session followed 80 minutes of public comment from a sometimes rowdy crowd.

RELATED: Fort Worth ISD says 80% of students and staff wore masks on the first day of school

Police removed one man for yelling at one woman speaking in favor of a mask mandate to shut up.

The public comment revealed a deeply divided North Texas community.

“Equity means choice - parents choosing what is right for their unique individual child. There has to be room for people to opt out of masks,” said parent Suzanne Asfar, speaking against masks being required.

But parent Priscilla Bowens said just the opposite.

“Protect our children,” she said. “This is public school, not parental choice school, right? We are in a public health pandemic, not a parental choice pandemic, right?”

Mothers and fathers held back tears as they talked about receiving notifications of positive COVID cases in their children’s classes during the first two days of class.

Others said Scribner should be held accountable for enacting a mandate that landed the district in court.

“You will lose and we will lose,” one father told the board, asking them not to take any additional legal action and not to enact a mask policy.

One student told the board masks are the tool that helps her feel safe inside her school.

“Masks are not a guarantee, but they can help us with COVID, that’s why we need a mask mandate,” Greer said, “because I want to stay at my high school.“

The vote to join the lawsuit was six in favor, two opposed and one abstention.