Texas Judge Rules Against Governor Abbots Order to Remove Mask Mandates In Schools

A federal judge in Texas has overruled Governor Abbot’s executive order, banning mask mandates in schools. The mandate was overruled due to it violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

U.S District Court Judge Lee Yeakel stopped Attorney General Ken Paxton from enforcing the order. This decision comes months after legal disputes between parents, disability rights organizations, and state officials. 

Judge Yeakel stated, “The spread of COVID-19 poses an even greater risk for children with special health needs. 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.”

Yeakel’s order now allows schools to set their own mask rules. 

In August, Disability Rights Texas filed a lawsuit against Governor Abbott on behalf of several Texas families. The suit argued that the executive order “denies public education to children who are at high risk from the virus.” The lawsuit also named Ken Paxton and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath. 

The attorney for the state argued that they couldn’t be sued because the attorney general and the texas education agency were not enforcing the order. Disability Rights Texas argued they were enforcing the order. They cited a letter the Texas education agency sent to the attorney general’s office. The letter listed school districts that were operating in violation of the executive order. 

Disability Rights Texas also argued that Paxton sued several school districts that were not complying with the order. They claimed Paxton sent “threatening” letters to districts informing them of violating the order. 

After the ruling, Disability Rights Attorney Kym Davis Rogers announced, “As the court found, Texas is not above federal law, and state officials cannot prevent school districts from providing accommodations to students who are especially vulnerable to the risks of COVID-19. We are thankful that school districts can now take the steps necessary to protect these students.”

Ken Paxton said that he “strongly disagreed” with the judge’s ruling. He noted that his agency will continue to try and find ways to challenge the decision.

The new ruling will potentially affect over 5 million kids in 1,000 districts whose districts may now change the rules. Judges in South Carolina, Iowa, and Tennessee have ruled that the school districts can enforce mask mandates. 

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