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Texas Supreme Court blocks governor's ban on mask mandates in schools

Aug. 20, 2021
The high court has denied the state's expedited appeal of a lower court order that has blocked enforcement of Gov. Greg's Abbott ban on mask requirements in schools.

The Texas Supreme Court has rejected Gov. Greg Abbott’s effort to block temporary restraining orders on his ban on mask mandates. That means that for now, school districts are allowed to require face coverings in defiance of Abbott.

The Washington Post reports that the court cited a provision of the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure for why the request was denied. The one-sentence order provided no additional details.

Travis County Judge Jan Soifer in Austin had issued the restraining orders barring enforcement of Abbott’s ban on mask mandates. That cleared the way for mask requirements in Harris County, which includes Houston, and eight school districts.

The judge said she was concerned that Abbott’s executive order was “prohibiting a requirement that the schools and the local authorities and the people who generally Texas relies on to make decisions for its citizens think are necessary.”

Following the state Supreme Court’s order, the state’s appeal of the restraining orders will be heard by the Third Court of Appeals, where the majority of the Austin justices are Democrats. Whenever the Third Court of Appeals rules, that decision is expected to be appealed, which would bring the subject of mask mandates in schools back to the Texas Supreme Court.

The move from the state’s high court happened the same day the Texas Education Agency suspended enforcement of Abbott’s ban in the state’s public school systems. The TEA says ongoing court challenges prompted the agency to drop enforcement.

The debate in Texas over mask mandates in schools has intensified at a time when the coronavirus has spiked in Texas because of the highly transmissible delta variant and millions who remain unvaccinated.

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