As librarians from across the state prepare for the annual Texas Library Association (TLA) Conference in Fort Worth next week, the TLA will be enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine requirement on taxpayer-owned property.
“TLA will require proof of full* vaccination OR a negative COVID-19 test (administered within 72 hours of attendance) of all registered attendees; sponsors, exhibitors, volunteers, TLA staff and speakers,” reads the TLA program.
The Fort Worth Convention Center is taxpayer-owned, with Mayor Mattie Parker and the Fort Worth City Council ultimately serving as stewards of the property. Texas Scorecard sent inquiries to Mayor Parker and each city council member to determine if the city would be enforcing the TLA’s mandates.
Councilmember Gyna Bivens forwarded our request to city staff. Michelle Gutt, communications and public engagement director for the City of Fort Worth, told Texas Scorecard:
When an organization contracts with the city for the use of the Convention Center, they can determine the COVID protocols that will be in place for their event. The policies they put in place are only for their licensed spaces. Other spaces in the convention center cannot require masks or vaccines, and no city employees will be involved in enforcing the protocols put in place by the renting organization.
Texas Scorecard sought confirmation that neither the Fort Worth Police Department nor Code Enforcement would act to enforce the TLA vaccine mandate if a disturbance occurred.
Gutt affirmed that their duty would be peacekeeping in any situation, adding that conference leaders normally handle any issues that occur.
Brandon Scott Bennet, director of Fort Worth Code Compliance, elaborated on the matter:
In this scenario, they [TLA] control the entry and seldom does police or [Code Enforcement] get involved. If there are other areas of the facility that have not been rented out and are open to the public, those areas would be subject to the Governor’s COVID Orders, not the private party guidelines. My sense is that the screening at point of entry will not result in any major disturbances that would warrant police or code response.
However, Bennett further said, “The issuance of citations requires that all elements of the crime have been met along with probable cause that the crime was committed by the person in question. … I cannot say with absolute certainty what the outcome will be, as there are way too many variables.”
Although the city perhaps has no intention of enforcing draconian COVID-19 measures, if a disturbance occurred due to someone showing up without being fully vaxxed or COVID tested, that person could receive a citation due to the TLA’s entry guidelines.
The TLA did not respond to Texas Scorecard’s request for comment on how they intend to enforce their COVID-19 policies.
Fort Worth Councilman Cary Moon also replied to us:
At this time in this post-COVID world, it is silly to require vaccination cards and masks to garner attendance. With that said, the Fort Worth Convention is available for rent. Whoever wants to rent the venue and bring attendees to Fort Worth has the discretion to use the facility for their event how they choose.
Moon, who has stood out as a more conservative member of the city council, is retiring after losing his bid for the Republican nomination in State House District 93. Candidates Tara Wilson and Alan Blaylock are running to replace him in the May 7 election.
Blaylock told Texas Scorecard he does not support the TLA event’s vaccine mandate or using city resources to enforce the group’s COVID protocols. Wilson did not respond before publication.
Previously, Texas Scorecard highlighted TLA-featured speakers Justin Johnson and Joseph Hoselton, who will headline the “After Hours Keynote” and “Drag Queen Story Hour” events.
The TLA’s decision to celebrate hazardous sexual behaviors at a conference intended for the librarians of taxpayer-funded schools and government libraries comes amid frustration from Texas parents who want book boundaries and the removal of pornographic materials from K-12 school libraries.
As parents push back against explicit materials, one TLA event titled “Annual Update on Trends in Censorship and Challenges” says, “The number of challenges reported to ALA increased by 60% in 2021 and censorship activity is not slowing down.” The event promises to teach librarians “how to prepare for future challenges and how ALA is supporting librarians facing challenges.”