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Texas Schools Are Free To Mandate Masks After Court Decision—But Here’s Why It’s Only Temporary

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 20, 2021

Topline

A ruling from the Texas Supreme Court late Thursday has temporarily cleared the way for public schools in the state to require masks in their classrooms, but that decision may soon be reversed as the battle over Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) mask mandate ban continues to move through the court system. 

Key Facts

The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday declined a request from Abbott to block restraining orders issued by a Travis County judge against the governor’s mask mandate. 

This refusal to intervene means the ruling from the lower court, which allows school districts to require masks in their schools, still stands while litigation continues. 

But the win is tenuous for coronavirus-concerned school districts as the Texas Supreme Court based its ruling on a technicality: Abbott had attempted to bypass a provision that requires cases to go to an appellate court before reaching the state’s highest civil court.

The Abbott challenge will likely work its way back up to the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court, which could still side with the governor and allow his ban on mask mandates in schools. 

What To Watch For 

Abbott must now take his challenge to the court of appeals, after which he can go again to the state Supreme Court. 

Surprising Fact

After the decision, the Texas Education Agency released a new guidance announcing it will not be enforcing Abbott’s mask order as a result of the ongoing litigation. But this doesn’t mean the ban is being permanently dropped. The education agency said “further guidance will be made available after the court issues are resolved,” meaning it could begin enforcing the ban again.

Key Background 

Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in schools has sparked a mounting legal battle in Texas involving many different school districts. At least eight counties and 58 school districts have imposed masking and social distancing requirements, according to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, which argues local mandates create “mass confusion.” The state’s courts have been split on their rulings so far, with the Supreme Court earlier this week siding with Abbott and temporarily blocking two counties from imposing their mask orders. Then also on Thursday, the 4th Court of Appeals in Texas ruled that a temporary order allowing mask mandates in San Antonio and Bexar County could stand

Tangent 

Texas is not the only state where a Republican governor’s ban on mask mandates has been taken to court. Lawsuits have been filed aiming to strike down these bans in Arkansas, Florida and Oklahoma, while legal action could be on the horizon in a handful of other states.

Further Reading

“Tennessee Becomes Latest State To Ban School Mask Mandates — Here’s The Full List” (Forbes)

“Florida Sanctioned Schools For Imposing Mask Mandates — Schools In These States Could Be Punished Next” (Forbes)

“Texas Supreme Court Backs School Mask Mandate Ban—Here’s Where All The Lawsuits Over Them Stand” (Forbes)

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