September 27, 2021

Some Texas school districts say they will defy Supreme Court ruling upholding Abbott’s local mask ban

4 min read

The Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocked lower court rulings allowing local government entities and school districts to defy an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott prohibiting them from implementing mask mandates. Local judges have said they are not complying and are continuing to implement the mandates anyway.

Sunday’s ruling affects Dallas and Bexar Counties, and excludes Harris County, whose judge had also sued Abbott.

A hearing in San Antonio is scheduled for Monday, after a lower court in Bexar County ruled on Friday that local officials had the authority to mandate masks in schools.

A hearing is also scheduled in Dallas County for Aug. 24 after an appeals court sided with Dallas County’s mask mandates.

However, the state Supreme Court’s ruling temporarily overrules both lower court rulings.

In response, the city of San Antonio released a statement saying it would not comply with the Texas Supreme Court ruling. Bexar County’s mask mandate for all public Pre-K through 12th grade schools remains in effect, CBS affiliate KENS-TV reported. Likewise, “City facilities will also continue to require the use of masks for both staff and visitors.”

In Dallas, County Judge Clay Jenkins also said he wasn’t complying: “We won’t stop working with parents, doctors, schools, business and others to protect you and intend to win that hearing” on Aug. 24. “Unless I receive a ruling requiring otherwise, I will amend my order to remove the possibility of fines on noncompliant businesses but otherwise leave the order in effect.”

Dallas Independent School District also announced mask wearing would still be required on all district property and visitors would not be allowed inside schools. Dallas ISD schools started Monday.

Irving ISD, which falls under Dallas ISD, said it will comply with the Texas Supreme Court’s decision. While it said students, staff and visitors were “highly encouraged” to wear masks, it said, “Irving ISD will adhere to the Supreme Court’s decision until further guidance on the matter is provided.”

In Austin, Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown last week also issued mandates requiring face coverings to be worn inside public schools and government buildings. After Sunday’s ruling, they also said they would wait to see what the final outcome is in the courts was and wouldn’t amend their mandates.

Adler tweeted, “While we await a final decision, we believe local rules are the rules. Regardless of what eventually happens in the courts, if you’re a parent, please keep fighting to have everyone in schools masked. We stand with you.”

Last year, while Adler told Austinites to stay home, he received criticism for traveling to Mexico. While he mandated that Austinites wear masks or be denied services, he was also criticized for not following his own rules after pictures surfaced of him hosting his daughter’s wedding where he and others were not wearing masks.

Austin ISD also announced Sunday that masks were still required in all schools and facilities “regardless of the latest Texas Supreme Court ruling.” Austin ISD schools start Tuesday.

State District Judge Jan Soifer in Austin also issued a series of temporary restraining orders allowing mask mandates in any Texas school district and specifically in eight school districts including Harris County. Soifer, a Democrat, is presiding over injunction hearings affecting Travis County on Aug. 23 and all Texas school districts for Aug. 25.

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said the Supreme Court’s ruling didn’t affect his county and is moving forward with an injunction hearing scheduled for Aug. 25. Some Harris County schools started last week, some start this week, and some start next week.

After the Texas Supreme Court ruling, Attorney General Ken Paxton said, “Let this ruling serve as a reminder to all (school districts) and local officials that the governor’s order stands. Local mask mandates are illegal.”

Abbott also added, “The ban doesn’t prohibit using masks. Anyone who wants to wear a mask can do so, including in schools.”

State Sen. Jose Menéndez, D-San Antonio, launched a legal defense fund to help school districts pay fines when they defy Abbott’s executive order. Bexar County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez pledged $10,000.

Former Democratic state senator Wendy Davis also asked people to donate to a bail fund, organized by Ground Game Texas and Safe Schools for All. The site says its goal is to raise “at least $100,000 to protect at least 100 school districts that stand up to Abbott. It is Abbott’s emergency order GA-38 that threatens $1,000 fines and prevents many school districts from implementing universal masking policies ….”

This article was originally posted on Some Texas school districts say they will defy Supreme Court ruling upholding Abbott’s local mask ban

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