A federal judge overturned Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates in Texas schools Wednesday, citing a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel barred Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from enforcing Abbott’s order, which follows months of legal wrangling between parents and the state regarding whether the governor’s order violates the ADA, according to The Texas Tribune.
“The spread of COVID-19 poses an even greater risk for children with special health needs,” Yeakel said. “Children with certain underlying conditions who contract COVID-19 are more likely to experience severe acute biological effects and to require admission to a hospital and the hospital’s intensive-care unit.”
The judge’s ruling now allows local officials to make their own rules regarding mask mandates.
The advocacy group Disability Rights Texas filed the federal lawsuit against Abbott in August on behalf of several families in the state. The suit, which also named Paxton and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, argued that that executive order denies public education to children who are at high risk from the virus.
Kym Davis Rogers, who represented Disability Rights Texas, noted that the court ruled that Texas is not above federal law.
“No student should be forced to make the choice of forfeiting their education or risking their health, and now they won’t have to,” Rogers said.
Abbott’s ban on school mask mandates echoes that of Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., who has repeatedly clashed with the Biden administration over the issue.
DeSantis signed an executive order in July that made mask-wearing optional in public schools, despite updated mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommends all teachers and students to mask up, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.