Gov. Abbott's office repeats 'personal responsibility' message after larger counties challenge order

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- With district after district stepping in to institute their own mask mandate, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's office stood firm on letting parents decide what's best for their students, while also backing vaccines as the best defense against COVID despite many school-age children remaining ineligible for inoculation.

On Friday, Renae Eze, Abbott's press secretary, weighed in a day after Houston ISD became the latest and the state's largest school district to approve a districtwide mask mandate. In a statement, she said:

"We are all working to protect Texas children and those most vulnerable among us, but violating the Governor's executive orders-and violating parental rights-is not the way to do it. Governor Abbott has been clear that the time for mask mandates is over; now is the time for personal responsibility. Parents and guardians have the right to decide whether their child will wear a mask or not, just as with any other decision in their child's life. Governor Abbott has spent his entire time in office fighting for the rights and freedoms of all Texans, and our office continues working with the Office of the Attorney General to do just that. The best defense against this virus is the COVID vaccines, and we continue to strongly encourage all eligible Texans to get vaccinated."

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In an 8-0 vote, the school board approved the districtwide mask mandate as classes are set to resume on Aug. 23.

The messaging may seem familiar. On Monday, Eze offered the same statement that also mentioned COVID vaccines, personal responsibility and parental rights.

At that time, Dallas and Austin school districts were preparing to vote on mask mandates, which were eventually approved.

SEE ALSO: Some Houston-area school districts defying Gov. Abbott's COVID orders
Well before this week, Abbott signed an executive order that banned local governing entities, medical authorities, or school districts from instituting their own COVID protocols. The order was signed before COVID cases began spiking again in the midst of the delta variant of the virus.

With schools expected to return to in-person learning and thousands of students ineligible to get vaccinated, districts faced pressure to protect their students while under threat of penalty by the governor's office.

Under Abbott's executive order, "an offense" would be punishable by a fine up to $1,000.

So, what would be the fallout for defying the governor? Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has vowed to take the fight to the state's Supreme Court.

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"We can't just tell Texas children they're on their own," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a tweet.

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