A ruling coming in late Thursday night from the Texas Supreme Court is going to send the majority of Texans into an outrage. The highest court in the state will allow schools to continue requiring masks while a legal battle between the governor and local officials gets sorted out.
In declining to block restraining orders against Governor Greg Abbott’s mask ban mandate, the justices remanded Attorney General Ken Paxton’s appeal to the 3rd Texas Court of Appel in Austin for a hearing. The court did not have the courage to issue an opinion for its Draconian decision.
The horrific move came the same day that the Texas Education Agency suspended enforcement in the state’s public school systems of Abbott’s ban on mask requirements, the Texas Education Agency announced on Thursday.
In a public health guidance letter, the Texas Education Agency said enforcement was being dropped because of the ongoing court challenges to the ban. The letter stated that new guidance is effective immediately and further guidance will be issued once the legislation is resolved.
In an emergency order issued last month, Abbott reaffirmed his ban on mask mandates by any government entity, although federal agencies have mandated masks in their facilities. The governor and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have said they would sue any entity that does not comply with the emergency order. No such lawsuit has been filed. The Texas Supreme Court had upheld the ban in a previous decision, but that did not stop dozens of entities from imposing mask mandates.
The Supreme Court ruling came in some of those cases filed in state district court in Austin. Several South Texas school districts along with the state’s most populous county won temporary legal victories on Friday as they seek to override Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates, which they argued is making the COVID-19 pandemic worse.
Before she granted the temporary restraining orders, state District Judge Jan Soifer said she was troubled that Abbott’s executive order was “prohibiting a requirement that the schools and the local authorities and the people who generally Texas relies on to make decisions for its citizens think are necessary.”
The TEA letter recommended public school systems consult local public health officials and legal counsel before making final decisions. It also requires districts to notify their teachers, staff members and families if a test confirms a Covid-19 case in a classroom or extracurricular activity. The state previously only recommended such notification.
The TEA guidance was issued in the wake of multiple court challenges mounted by parents, advocates for disabled children and local governments and school boards. Seven counties and 48 school districts have implemented mask mandates, despite Abbott’s ban. A state district court judge also has granted restraining orders to Harris County and several South Texas school districts that allow those entities to proceed with mask mandates. Another state district judge issued an order Thursday that allows Fort Bend County, which adjoins Harris County, to order mask-wearing in county buildings.
Thanks to our friends at NBC News for contributing to this article.