With the delta variant contributing to a spike in COVID-19 cases across Texas, many of the state's largest school districts issued mask mandates this week, defying Gov. Greg Abbott's executive ban on such requirements.
Austin and Dallas ISDs will require students and staff to wear masks, and Houston ISD is expected to follow, pending a vote its Aug. 12 school board meeting. Fort Worth ISD is also considering a mask mandate as are Brownsville and several districts in the Houston area. While most districts in San Antonio say masks remain optional in keeping with Abbott's order, Bexar County has ordered a mask mandate for city and county facilities, including public schools. The list of districts requiring masks is likely to grow.
Just as in the earliest days of the pandemic, there are battles among various levels of government regarding who has ultimate authority. The legality of the governor’s order is currently under litigation in several courts and the attorney general has filed an application with a court of appeals to reverse an order by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins mandating masks in Dallas County schools. Abbott has asked the Supreme Court to end all restraining orders judges have issued against his mask mandate ban. There will be other court cases over the issue of whether school boards have authority that takes precedence over the governor’s authority to issue emergency executive orders of this nature.
TEA has also recognized that the legal issues surrounding mask mandates or prohibitions are now in the hands of the courts. The following statement was issued today:
TCTA members with questions or concerns about their district's policies should call 888-879-8282 to speak with a staff attorney.