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Not Every Texas School District Can Mandate Masks, Judge Rules — But Some Can

Students wear masks at their desks at Travis High School  in Austin. Austin ISD is requiring people to wear masks in schools.
Students wear masks at their desks at Travis High School in Austin. Austin ISD is requiring people to wear masks in schools.

A court order that temporarily blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in Texas public schools is set to expire Friday — but a group of school districts made headway in their bid to require masks in their schools.

State District Judge Catherine Mauzy of Travis County denied a request by the Southern Center for Child Advocacy, a nonprofit education group, to extend a temporary order blocking Abbott’s ban and allow any school district in Texas to require students, teachers, school employees and visitors to wear masks in public schools.

But in another case, the same judge temporarily blocked Abbott’s executive order banning local mask mandates with a temporary injunction — allowing 20 school districts to require students, teachers, school employees and visitors to wear masks in public schools.

Those districts include several border school districts including La Joya, Brownsville and Hidalgo ISDs — as well as districts in the state’s larger metropolitan areas that later joined the lawsuit, including Houston, Austin and Dallas.

“Absent this order, the school districts and community college district will be unable to adopt a face covering requirement to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which threatens to overwhelm public schools and could result in more extreme measures such as school closures that have already begun in several Texas school districts,” Mauzy wrote in her ruling.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has already appealed Mauzy’s ruling. In the push-and-pull between state Republican officials and local officials over mask mandates, a lower court will often favor cities, counties and school districts and allow them to initiate their own mask-wearing rules before a higher court overrules them, siding with Abbott and Paxton.

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From The Texas Tribune