Texas Supreme Court rules against Cy-Fair teachers union, ruling teachers must return to work

The Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in a fierce battle between the district and the teachers union over returning to campus for training ahead of the start of the school year.

HOUSTON – The Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in a fierce battle between the district and the teachers union over returning to campus for training ahead of the start of the school year.

On Friday, a Harris County District Judge granted the Cy-Fair American Federation of Teachers (Cy-Fair AFT) a temporary restraining order, which prevented teachers from being forced to physically be in a school building before Sept. 7. The first day of classes will be on Sept. 8 in Cy-Fair ISD.

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Nikki Cowart with the Cy-Fair AFT said they pleaded with the district to reduce the number of personnel required in school buildings as coronavirus cases continue to be high in Houston and Harris County.

However, per the Supreme Court’s ruling Sunday, teachers must report to work.

The Cy-Fair AFT released a statement after the ruling:

“This ruling is disheartening but our members will keep speaking up for the safety of our Cy-Fair community. The COVID-19 infection rate has not dropped to below 5 percent, and on the first day of professional development it was clear the district had not implemented the proper protocols to prevent the virus’ spread consistently across all 91 schools. This ruling does not change our union’s resolve to protect the health and safety of our members and the students we serve.”

The union went on to say it would not be the reason “why our students cannot return. We will consider our options in the coming days.”

Cowart said the teachers union is still concerned and worries about how schools will enforce a mask policy.

“School leaders enforce dress codes that they believe are professional for staff and appropriate for students,” Cowart said. “But if they aren’t able to enforce the mask-wearing in order to ensure the safety of every single person on campus, we just really felt like that was a double standard.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Texas Supreme Court Monday, in favor of the court overturning the district judge’s ruling.

“Friday was supposed to mark the return to campus for Cy-Fair teachers and staff who were preparing to start the new school year and welcome back kids, until a trial court unlawfully ordered the campus shut down at the request of a teachers’ union. The trial court’s order exceeds its jurisdiction and grants relief contrary to the laws of Texas,” Paxton said in a news release. “Teachers’ unions have no authority to override the decisions of schools administrators about how to return to school safely.”

Students will have the option of returning to in-person classes on Sept. 8 or learn virtually. You can learn more about Cy-Fair ISD’s reopening plans here.