Hays County judge orders masks be required in schools, defying Gov. Abbott’s ban

Hays

HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — On Friday, Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra signed an order stating students, staff and visitors (over the age of 2) must wear face masks while on school property or buses.

Hays CISD says it’s currently meeting with legal counsel over what the next move to be made is. The district previously said it would not challenge Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on his order preventing school districts and local jurisdictions from mandating masks.

Hays CISD Superintendent Eric Wright stuck to that stance in an email to parents Saturday, saying, “we will do what we need to do to keep children and staff as safe as possible, but we must do it in a way that respects the ultimate decisions made under law. We cannot have chaos and blatant defiance. That serves no one – especially our children.”

Wright said the mask issue has become “entrenched in adult politics,” but that will not stop the school board from keeping the wellbeing of students in mind.

Students at Hays CISD schools return to the classroom on Thursday Aug. 19.

“Currently, 70% of the 12-15 age group are unvaccinated, and children under 12 are not eligible for a vaccine at all,” Judge Becerra said. “Masks are their only line of defense.”

It comes amid a spike in hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 as the highly contagious delta variant takes hold across the country.

Judge Becerra described the rising number of cases as a “public health emergency.”

“I am concerned about the health and safety of our children and our hardworking faculty and staff members in our ISDs and hospitals,” he said.

Gov. Abbott previously said he would not enforce any further mask mandates, telling Texans now is the time for “personal responsibility.”

“Personal responsibility, undefined, as a disaster response strategy for an infectious disease pandemic is not working,” Judge Becerra added.

In Central Texas, Austin ISD, San Marcos CISD, Manor ISD and Del Valle ISD have already said children will wear masks at school in the fall. Some of Texas’ largest school districts – including Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth ISDs – are implementing their own mask requirements.

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