UPDATE 10/14/21: Texas Scorecard sent inquiries to every DISD trustee. Trustee Edwin Flores replied after publication, stating DISD “does not discuss matters that implicate the privacy rights of its students. … Dallas ISD follows all applicable state or federal laws to accommodate students or staff who may have an underlying medical reason or condition that limits that person’s ability to wear a mask in the school environment. … From the beginning, Dallas ISD has worked with all individuals to make any reasonable accommodations necessary and will continue to do so.” He said he has “no way to know” if Gov. Abbott’s office had contacted the district.

After months of fighting and an appeal to Gov. Greg Abbott, a mother convinced Dallas ISD (DISD) to no longer segregate her unmasked children. She encourages other parents to “fight hard” against local tyranny in their own school districts.

“My kids … are returning back to class unmasked,” Lauren Davis joyfully told Texas Scorecard. “We were able to achieve them returning with no disparity in treatment between a masked and unmasked student.” This begins on Thursday. 

Davis previously made serious allegations against DISD to the board trustees and Gov. Abbott. She alleged that the district had segregated and withheld education from her two children and that her daughter had received a death threat—all because they weren’t wearing masks.

“They were absolutely treated as if they were the contagion,” Davis said. “They were basically ripped from their classroom [and] stuck in what I would call unlawful imprisonment.”

Davis provided photographs of the room in the library she said the district had put her children in. Texas Scorecard previously reported that Davis and another citizen said DISD had become a hostile learning environment.

“They built that box, that cage, with no notice to me,” she said. “My son called me saying it was hot in there and [he] couldn’t breathe.” She alleged the fire department cited the district for this “box.”

Texas Scorecard contacted DISD Trustee Edwin Flores. “A plexiglass partition was put in place to protect other students using the library,” he told Texas Scorecard. “The fire [marshal] evaluated the partition and asked that the partition be lowered, which the school did.” The photo provided by Davis were taken before that was done. She confirmed the partition had later been lowered.

No More Restrictions

After this long fight, Davis and her family won a great victory Wednesday. “We were able to work through the district’s mask exemption process,” she told Texas Scorecard. But it wasn’t easy. “There was resistance to a non-discriminatory accommodation,” she said. “But we were able to gain equal access to the school learning environment.”

Her victory follows a personal appeal she and her husband made to Gov. Abbott on Sunday. “Let me go talk to our legislators about it [and] see what we can come up with,” Abbott told them. “Let us go shoulder to shoulder with you and fight for you.” Davis said she had “not personally received” any evidence that Abbott had acted yet, though she heard his office had contacted DISD. “I’m just really hoping to hear from him, because my victory is for just my kids. This victory needs to be for everybody’s kids.” An inquiry to Abbott’s office wasn’t responded to before publication.

Despite Wednesday’s victory, Davis said the fight against local tyranny isn’t over. “Parents aren’t allowed to access the campus right now.”

She offered advice to other Texans struggling with mask mandates in their school districts. “Don’t give up. You as a parent, especially as a mother … we are the biggest and only true advocate for our children,” she said. “Nobody on the planet will care about them more than we care about them. Stand up and fight for your kids and for everyone else’s kids.”

“And [to] these parents who don’t know they need to fight yet: Fight. Fight hard and don’t give up.”

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.