AUSTIN, Texas - Dr. Mark Escott, with Austin Public Health, said he believes that he has the authority to close schools if needed, which goes against what the Texas Attorney General has already stated.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said local health authorities don’t have the authority to make decisions when it comes to schools. In a statement, Paxton said:
“Education of our children is an essential Texas value and there is no current statewide order prohibiting any school from opening. While local health authorities may possess some authority to close schools in limited circumstances, they may not issue blanket orders closing all schools on a purely preventative basis. That decision rightfully remains with school system leaders.”
On Tuesday in a Travis County Commissioners Court meeting, Escott said he believes he does. “From my perspective, I believe I have the legal authority to do that,” he said.
Escott added Austin-Travis County is in a public health emergency and he has authority when it comes to making decisions in situations like these.
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“To issue further control orders to mitigate the spread of the disease,” Escott said. “That’s what we are doing.”
He added when it comes to schools, it does not matter if they are public, private or religious, all recommendations should be the same. He says this is not about restriction, but a matter of public safety.
“This is about saving lives and I think we all need to be together on that,” Escott said.
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