Earlier this month, Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting local authorities from requiring the use of face masks as they fight the pandemic.
This order also includes school districts, amidst a surge of COVID-19 cases arising from the aggressive spread of the delta virus, and just as schools prepare to receive children for in-person classes.
While justifying his decision, Abbott insisted it was time for Texans to rely on personal responsibility instead of implementing the health recommendations issued both by the CDC and international health institutions.
Schools however have fought back. Since Abbott issued his executive order, more and more school districts have been challenging the decision in an effort to protect students, especially those who are still not eligible for vaccination.
According to KXAN, Dallas ISD was the first to announce it will require students and teachers to wear masks on campus. Then, Austin ISD’s superintendent announced masks would be required for all beginning Tuesday. Fort Worth ISD’s superintendent followed announcing Tuesday the school district will require students and employees to wear masks. On Wednesday, Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II issued a mandate, too.
As of Thursday evening, Dallas, Bexar, Fort Bend, Travis, and Harris counties have all issued mask mandates for school systems in their counties. Only Dallas, Bexar, and Fort Bend counties have secured temporary restraining orders to implementing Abbott’s executive orders in their counties. So far, North East ISD is the only Bexar County school district to comply whereas all but one Dallas County school district, Sunnyvale ISD, has announced they will comply.
As a response to the challenges, the Governor vowed Wednesday to take to court any school district, public university, or local official who rejects his ban on imposing mask mandates.
“Any school district, public university, or local government official that decides to defy GA-38—which prohibits gov’t entities from mandating masks—will be taken to court. The path forward relies on personal responsibility—not government mandates,” Abbott tweeted.
Abbott and Attorney General Paxton have appealed the injunction
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas increased to 10,463 on Wednesday, the most since Feb. 3. State health officials reported 112 deaths on Wednesday, the first time the total surpassed 100 since March 10, as reported by the New York Post.
“Governor Abbott’s order does not limit the district’s rights as an employer and educational institution to establish reasonable and necessary safety rules for its staff and students,” said Dallas ISD in a statement. “Dallas ISD remains committed to the safety of our students and staff.”