A federal judge on Wednesday ordered a halt to the enforcement of Texas’ ban on mask mandates in the state’s schools.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled in Austin that the ban ordered by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott violated a federal law protecting disabled students’ access to public education. The nonprofit advocacy group Disabled Rights Texas argued that Abbott’s ban prohibited accommodations for disabled children particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
Yeakel prohibited Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from suing school districts that require students to wear masks as a safety measure. Paxton already had sued 15 school districts to overturn those local mask mandates.
“Governor Abbott’s executive order clearly violates federal law, and Attorney General Paxton’s enforcement of the order against school districts is now stopped,” Kym Davis Johnson of Disability Rights Texas said in a statement. “As the court found, Texas is not above federal law, and state officials cannot prevent school districts from providing accommodations to students who are especially vulnerable to the risks of COVID-19.”
Messages seeking comment from Abbott’s and Paxton’s offices were not immediately returned Wednesday.
“He is saying… that if we fight for the safety of our kids, then he is going to defund our schools,” says Karla Hernandez-Mats, an educator and president of the United Teachers of Dade. Teachers across the state of Florida are risking pay to keep children and others safe by requiring masks in schools, in defiance of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order that leaves decisions on masking up to the parents.