Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocks Gov. Abbott's mask mandate ban in schools

Austin, Texas – Texas school districts and local governments will temporarily be allowed to institute mask mandates, the state's Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

The Texas state Capital grounds on the morning after the Supreme Court blocked Governor Greg Abbott's mask mandate ban.
The Texas state Capital grounds on the morning after the Supreme Court blocked Governor Greg Abbott's mask mandate ban.  © Taylor Kamnetz

The all-Republican court decided not to block a restraining order put in place by Travis County Judge Jan Soifer that halted Governor Greg Abbott's mask mandate ban, the Texas Tribune reported.

The decision comes after a week of back-and-forth regarding whether school districts could enforce mask mandates, despite the governor's executive order from July that banned mask mandates for government entities, including public schools.

The highest court in the state rejected the plea by Attorney General Ken Paxton, who demanded that the Texas Supreme Court block the attempts of school districts and city officials to put mask mandates in place for K-12 public schools, in his desire to comply with Gov. Abbott's executive order.

Next, the challenge initially made by Paxton will be heard by the state's Third Court of Appeals, where the majority of the Austin justices are Democrats and likely to side with the Texas Supreme Court.

Citing ongoing court challenges, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has suspended the enforcement of Abbott's executive order, as noted in a public guidance letter issued on Thursday.

The TEA's letter also stated that public schools must report any confirmed Covid-19 cases among students, staff, teachers, or visitors to its local health department.

"Schools must notify all teachers, staff, and families of all students in a classroom or extracurricular or after-school program cohort if a test-confirmed Covid-19 case is identified among students, teachers or staff who participated in those classrooms or cohorts," it additionally read.

Many school districts in Austin and cities across the state of Texas had previously defied Abbott's executive order by putting mask mandates in place prior to the Supreme Court's ruling on Thursday.

Cover photo: Taylor Kamnetz

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