The Texas Supreme Court has temporarily blocked Dallas and Bexar counties from mandating masks at public schools, siding with a ban from the state’s Republican governor’s barring government institutions from requiring face coverings amid surging COVID-19 cases.
The temporary injunctions put in place Sunday come in response to a flurry of litigation over the weekend concerning Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban, which he issued by arguing that “Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices.”
As the start of the new school year approaches, several independent school boards have imposed mask mandates despite the executive order, including Dallas and Bexar Counties who announced their directives last week.
The two counties issued their mandates after a judge granted a temporary restraining order against the ban.
In response, Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a petition in the 4th Court of Appeals San Antonio, which upheld the restraining order, while the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas ruled against Abbott’s attempt to stay an order from Judge Clay Jenkins mandating masks, prompting the Republican state leaders to seek relief from the state’s Supreme Court.
The high court ruling will stand as the case moves forward.
“Let this ruling serve as a reminder to all [districts] and local officials that the governor’s order stands,” Paxton said in a statement.
The order does not ban masks in schools, but bars any requirement that children wear them, which many local leaders have argued are necessary for schools as many students are too young to be vaccinated against the virus. The measure, they say, is not only intended to protect students but teachers, staff and their families.
The city of San Antonio issued a statement following the ruling that its mask mandate “remains in effect,” stating the court’s ruling against their temporary restraining order has “little practical effect” as it was to expire by Monday’s hearing.
“The City of San Antonio and Bexar County’s response to the Texas Supreme Court continues to emphasize that the governor cannot use his emergency powers to suspend laws that provide local entities the needed flexibility to act in an emergency,” city attorney Andy Segovia said. “His suspension authority is meant to facilitate action, not prohibit it.”
The Dallas Independent School District also announced that they “still require masks be worn on district property” when schools restart on Monday.
Jenkins said in a statement after the ruling that he expects they will win Monday’s case.
“This should never be a political fight,” he said. “We’re at war on behalf of moms and dads and kids against a deadly virus. I sure wish the governor would join our side of the battle.”
Texas health officials on Saturday reported almost 22,000 new cases, compared to an average of about 1,000 per day in June.
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