A federal judge ruled that Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order on public schools requiring masks cannot be enforced. According to the judge, the mask mandate violates a federal mandate and puts students with disabilities at a greater risk of getting COVID-19.
Austin U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel also blocked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton requiring students, teachers, and staff to wear face coverings as a pandemic safety measure.
Paxton is expected to appeal the decision.
"I strongly disagree with Judge Yeakel's opinion barring my office from giving effect to GA-38," Paxton said on Twitter. "My agency is considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision."
Dallas lawyer, Tom Melsheimer, who represents Dallas rights Texas for students said:
"Going forward, school districts all over the state will be free to follow sound medical science and common sense to protect the most vulnerable among us. Who can reasonably object to such a result?"
Judge Yeakel’s injunction only applies to schools and not other areas Governor Abbott highlighted such as city and county government buildings.
According to the Austin American Statesmen, Abbott’s order was GA-38 and issued on July 29 and violates the Americans With Disabilities Act as it denied students an equal opportunity to participate in schools.
Governor Abbott’s office disagreed.
"As a paraplegic himself, Gov. Abbott cares deeply about the health and safety of disabled students, just as he does for all Texas students," spokeswoman Renae Eze said. "Nevertheless, he believes the federal district court’s decision to be flawed and is working with the attorney general’s office to appeal that decision in order to protect Texans' rights against school districts attempting to impose mask mandates."
Additionally, Yeakel said Governor Abbott’s Order went against the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.
"It cannot be more clear that Congress intends that the local school district receiving ARP Act funds be the ultimate decider of the requirements of the safe return to in-person instruction of students."
"GA-38 expressly prohibits a school district from requiring 'any person to wear a face covering,' clearly forbidding such a reasonable modification no matter the scope of a local school’s mask mandate."
According to American-Statesmen, an analysis on Central Texas schools showed they had the fewest COVID cases per 1,000 students this past September. Austin Independent School District was the first to defy the Governor’s order.
Austin Superintendent Stephanie Elizarde said she would monitor the numbers before making any changes in the mask procedures before the holidays and also give children between the ages of 5 to 11 time to get the COVID vaccine.