Judge Overturns Texas Ban On Mask Mandates In Schools

by Christina Marfice
Brandon Bell/Getty

In a blow to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a judge has overturned the state’s ban on mask mandates for schools

As the fight over COVID-19 preventative measures in schools continues, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who has been one of the nation’s staunchest anti-mask leaders, has just been dealt a major blow. In a new ruling, a federal judge said that Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in schools violates the Americans With Disabilities Act, and must be overturned.

The ruling gives power back to school districts to impose mask mandates as needed in their communities. It also bars Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from enforcing the anti-mask mandate executive order that Abbott issued back in July.

“The spread of COVID-19 poses an even greater risk for children with special health needs,” U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel said after the ruling. “Children with certain underlying conditions who contract COVID-19 are more likely to experience severe acute biological effects and to require admission to a hospital and the hospital’s intensive-care unit.”

The judge’s ruling is a big win for the group Disability Rights Texas, who filed the first federal lawsuit against Abbott’s order in August.

“We are thankful that school districts can now take the steps necessary to protect these students,” Kym Davis Rogers, an attorney for the group, said in a statement. “No student should be forced to make the choice of forfeiting their education or risking their health, and now they won’t have to.”

The case in Texas could have national implications, as other Republican-led states have also tried to ban mask mandates in schools. Even though school-aged children are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, schools remain a place where the virus can spread quickly. This school year alone, one in four parents says they’ve had to quarantine at least one child because of possible exposure to COVID.

Meanwhile, the Texas Attorney General is vowing to continue this fight in the courts.

Even though Abbott issued his executive order banning mask mandates in all Texas schools in July, a number of the state’s largest districts openly flouted Abbott’s order, requiring masks to protect their kids. The Texas Supreme Court ultimately ruled that schools could enforce their mask mandates while cases against the executive order worked their way through the courts, which maybe should have been some writing on the wall for Abbott and his pals. At the end of the day, keeping kids safe is what matters — now, if only someone could convince Greg Abbott of that.