Federal judge overrules governor’s ban on mask mandates, freeing districts to implement local safety measures

A federal district judge has ruled that Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on schools enacting mask mandates violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and can not be enforced—a decision that frees schools to develop local rules on masks. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said the governor’s order impeded students with disabilities, including those that put them at greater health risk, from access to the classes and services they are legally entitled to under ADA. 

“Today’s federal court ruling allowing a mask mandate in schools affirms that we should be able to respond in the pandemic with the right measures for what we are facing locally, regardless of misguided blanket orders from the governor,” said Texas AFT president Zeph Capo in a statement. The Wednesday ruling is likely to be appealed by the state.

Many districts had defied the governor’s executive orders, with some facing lawsuits against their mask mandates from Attorney General Ken Paxton. Yeakel’s ruling also prohibits Paxton from trying to enforce the governor’s order with lawsuits or other actions.