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November 26th, 2021:

Fifth Circuit puts school mask order on hold

This effing court.

A federal appeals court has reinstated Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates as it weighs a federal judge’s ruling that the ban violates the rights of disabled students.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel previously ruled that the order violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the American Rescue Plan, which gives discretion to school districts to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on the virus. Yeakel, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, had banned state Attorney General Ken Paxton from enforcing the order, including suing school districts that required masks.

Texas appealed the judge’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans, a court composed mostly of judges appointed by Republican presidents that has historically trended conservative in its legal decisions. Wednesday’s decision was made by a three-judge panel, two of whom were appointed by former President Donald Trump.

The lawsuit was brought by Disabled Rights Texas on behalf of a number of children with disabilities in Texas. Lawyers for those children argued the law banning mask mandates goes against CDC advice and that it doesn’t allow schools to consider mask mandates as an accommodation for kids with disabilities who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. They argued that it violates the ADA, which requires equal access to public goods for people with and without disabilities.

See here for the background. Other than the Bloomberg News story linked in the Chron piece, which says that the order was made by the court without any explanation, I can’t find any coverage of this, so this is what we know. But honestly, how much more do we need to know? As with the SB8 case and the detailed ruling given by the district court judge, the Fifth Circuit exists to enforce a partisan orthodoxy on whatever comes before it. When was the last time the state of Texas went running to them to ask for a stay on a ruling they didn’t like and got a No answer? All of the things that reformers want to do to the Supreme Court need to be done with even more urgency to this abomination.

Another AstroWorld lawsuit

It must have sucked to have been a security guard at that event.

Jackson Bush found the Astroworld Festival security gig through social media.

He and his uncle, Samuel Bush, applied and the New York-based company, AJ Melino & Associates, never checked their credentials, including a background check or whether they were licensed for security work through the state, he said.

The employer did not provide a W-2 form, according to both men.

“They told us to show up in all black and that’s what we did,” the eldest Bush said.

The uncle and nephew, both Houston residents, are suing the sub-contractor security company in connection to the fateful festival on Nov. 5 that left 10 people dead and several more hurt amid rapper Travis Scott’s chaotic performance. Their suit contends the company failed to provide a safe workplace environment or properly train them for what would devolve into one of the deadliest concerts in history.

The night ended a far cry from how it started around 5:30 a.m., with the two not knowing who to report to at the NRG Park grounds or how much they would be paid. During the chaos, Jackson Bush, 46, broke his right hand and injured his back as he tried plucking people from the crushing crowd. His nephew, 25, suffered shoulder and back pain during the fatal show.

Two weeks after the ordeal, an unspecified sum on Friday arrived in their Cash App and lawyer Larry Taylor said it was a fourth of what they were likely owed. Another security guard told the younger Bush that they would paid a $30 hourly rate.

“That’s still one of the things that’s still in dispute,” Taylor said.


As for duties, the men were eventually told to keep people from entering the festival grounds without a ticket — which happened, regardless, throughout the day. Droves of people hopped fences and rushed the barricades to get inside the Astroworld grounds.

“They told us where to stand, not to let people run in and try to be safe — not lay any hands on anybody,” the younger Bush said. “As far as training, there was no training.”

The plaintiffs are seeking $1 million in damages, including court costs. Not as big as some other lawsuits, but enough to notice. I also suspect that any discovery materials or witness testimony from this kind of litigation could turn up later in other cases, as I strongly suspect the overall security was as inadequate and overwhelmed as these guys make it sound.

Re-endorsement watch: This time it’s Anne

Time to start thinking about those HISD and HCC runoffs, kids. The Chron has started thinking about them, because they have issued their endorsements for the runoffs. Of the four HISD runoffs, three involve candidates they endorsed the first time around: Incumbents Sue Deigaard and Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca, and challenger Janette Garza Lindner. In the District VII race, the candidate they endorsed did not make it to the runoff, so they had to try again, and this time they went with the incumbent, Anne Sung.

Anne Sung

Now it comes down to incumbent Anne Sung, a 42-year-old, Harvard-educated, former award-winning HISD physics teacher, strong advocate for special education and truly experienced board member who unfortunately made some poor choices that dimmed our view of her performance. In 2018, she joined colleagues who met secretly with former Superintendent Abe Saavedra, which state officials say violated Texas’ open meetings law. Three days later she voted to swap Saavedra for interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan.

Sung apologized and said she only wanted Saavedra’s advice on state oversight issues and didn’t know of plans to hire him until moments before she voted for it. That excuse wasn’t quite sufficient. Still, incumbents only lose our endorsement when there’s a qualified replacement, and now we don’t believe there is one.

In the runoff, Sung faces Bridget Wade, 53, who touts her service as former Briargrove Elementary PTO president and carnival chair. She also sat on the Episcopal High School Board of Trustees.

In our interview with Wade, she talked about putting kids first and restoring integrity to the HISD board but she failed to articulate specific plans for doing so. Parroting phrases such as “best practices” and “school choice” offers little.

Far more concerning has been Wade’s willingness to pander to the right wing of the Republican Party, where she derives much of her support. She doesn’t just oppose HISD’s mask requirement, she dismisses it, without an ounce of introspection, as a “partisan political battle.”

It’s not a partisan act to implement policies that keep kids and teachers safe. It’s a partisan act not to. Communicable diseases are spread in the community and they’re fought the same way.

Last month, Wade cheered on some unmasked parents who became upset at having to wait to speak at a long meeting and began surrounding Superintendent Millard House II and shouting him down: “You do not walk away from us!” one yelled at him during a break. “You work for us!”

“Exactly right!” Wade responded on Twitter. “And the good woman who screamed that will know I work for you.”

Yelling and dysfunction are not the way. Not for parents. And not for HISD board members. We believe Sung understands that. She was never one of the disruptive voices and we believe she’s learned her lesson from the shenanigans of the past.

Her experience and dedication to HISD students speak for themselves. We urge voters to back Sung in the runoff for District VII.

See here, here, and here for the previous endorsements. As I said before, Sung is in a tough spot, as she trailed Wade on Election Day and doesn’t have nearly the campaign cash as the challenger. The district was also a Republican one in the pre-Trump days, though perhaps if the runoff voters see Wade as in the Trump mold that could help Sung. She has her work cut out for her. Early voting for the runoff starts Monday and runs through the following Tuesday, December 7. Get ready to vote again.