AUSTIN (Texas Tribune) — The Texas Supreme Court will decide whether the mask mandates school districts have imposed, in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott, can move forward.
Late Friday night, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a tweet that he has taken the mask mandate fight to the state Supreme Court, and Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee tweeted Saturday that the court will decide the case “on an expedited basis.”
This comes after Abbott suffered several defeats Friday afternoon in his bid to overturn local mask mandates after he banned such precautions earlier in the pandemic.
The 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio tossed out Abbott’s appeal to nix an order by the local health authority in Bexar County mandating mask-wearing in local public schools. Abbott sought to overturn a lower court ruling that allowed the local mandate.
Minutes later, the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas made an identical ruling in Abbott’s challenge to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ order mandating masks in public schools, universities and businesses — upholding the mandate there.
Over the past few days, a patchwork of mandates around masks in schools, government buildings and businesses have popped up across the state. Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton have vowed to fight local governments that defy the governor’s ban. Abbott has adopted a playbook of “personal responsibility” over government intervention in dealing with the pandemic.
Earlier, Friday a state district judge granted Harris County and several Texas school districts temporary permission Friday afternoon to implement mask requirements and other safety measures against COVID-19. But a Tarrant County District judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking Fort Worth Independent School District’s mask mandate after determining it was improper for an unelected school superintendent to determine the policy.
The legal battles over Abbott’s executive order come as school has started or will soon begin in districts across the state at the same time that COVID-19 infections are surging and hospitals are filling up with patients.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at www.texastribune.org. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans – and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.