Texas attorney general sues six school districts over mask mandates
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) announced Friday that he was taking legal action against six school districts who have imposed mask mandates in violation of Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) ban on the requirements.
The lawsuits add to the continued legal battles Abbott and Paxton have engaged in with local school districts that have issued mask mandates to combat the spread of COVID-19, especially amid the surge of the highly contagious delta variant.
Friday’s lawsuits cover mask mandates issued by the Richardson, Round Rock, Galveston, Elgin, Spring and Sherman Independent School Districts.
Paxton’s office said in its announcement of the lawsuits that it would be filing additional complaints should “school districts and other governmental entities continue to defy state law.”
“Not only are superintendents across Texas openly violating state law, but they are using district resources — that ought to be used for teacher merit raises or other educational benefits — to defend their unlawful political maneuvering,” Paxton said in a statement.
He added, “If districts choose to spend their money on legal fees, they must do so knowing that my office is ready and willing to litigate these cases.”
“I have full confidence that the courts will side with the law – not acts of political defiance,” Paxton said.
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) September 10, 2021
The six school districts are among the dozens of entities that the attorney general’s office has listed as being “non-compliant” with Abbott’s executive order.
The GOP governor has defended the mask mandate ban, arguing that the measure does not prohibit students from wearing masks, but defends parents’ authority to make the decision for their own children.
Last month, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of Abbott and blocked temporary restraining orders from district courts that had allowed local governments entities to defy the governor’s mask mandate ban.
The state’s high court once again defended Abbott’s executive order in another ruling later in the month, blocking Bexar County from continuing to enforce its masking requirements in schools.
However, districts across the Lone Star State have continued to fight back, including the Lockhart Independent School District, whose Board of Trustees voted last weekend to require masks for all students, staff, parents and visitors while in school buildings and on buses.
Abbott has been joined in his fight against local mask mandates by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who had his own statewide mask mandate ban reinstated Friday by the 1st District Court of Appeals.
President Biden has vowed to take action to prevent Republican governors from enforcing bans on COVID-19 protocols in schools, saying in remarks at the White House on Thursday, “if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way.”