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Governor Gregg Abbott, like some other Republican governors, banned mask mandates, preventing school districts from exercising local control about how best to protect their students. A federal judge ruled that Abbott’s ban violates the rights of students with disabilities and cannot be imposed on any district. This is good news for parents who want to protect their children against a deadly virus.
A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in Texas schools violates the rights of students with disabilities, clearing the path for districts in the state to issue their own rules for face coverings, a decision that could affect more than 5 million students.
The ruling comes after months of politicized disputes over measures at the state level opposing mask-wearing policies that had been intended to prevent the spread of Covid.
The lawsuit, which sought to overturn the mandate, was filed on behalf of several families of students with disabilities and the organization Disability Rights Texas.
They stated that the defendants — the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton; the commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, Mike Morath; and the Texas Education Agency — had put students with disabilities at risk through their complete erasure of mask mandates.
The governor and some other state officials have maintained that protecting against the virus is a matter of personal responsibility.
Judge Lee Yeakel, who made the ruling in the suit filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, determined that the order from the governor violated the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act because it put children with disabilities at risk.
The ruling also prohibits Mr. Paxton from enforcing the order by Mr. Abbott, who has repeatedly opposed Covid-related mandates.
There are eight other states that have banned mask mandates—Florida, Arizona, Montana, Iowa, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Dakota.