Bucking governor's ban on school mask mandates is 'necessary civil disobedience,' judge says

Gov. Greg Abbott has said ending mask mandates wouldn't end personal responsibility.
HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is the latest person to call for requiring masks in schools.

Overnight on Twitter, Hidalgo wrote, "Some talk about personal responsibility in schools but, as government leaders, we're responsible for the safety of those we serve. Our responsibility extends beyond the personal. We can't just tell Texas children they're on their own. Schools need to require masks."

Hidalgo's use of the phrase "personal responsibility" is likely a nod at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who lifted the statewide mask mandate back in March.

At the time, Abbott said, "Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility. It's just that now state mandates are no longer needed."

Abbott would go on to issue an executive order two months later in May barring government entities in Texas, including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, or government officials, from requiring or mandating mask wearing.

But that's the problem for some school districts, who may end up defying Abbott's order.

On Thursday, Houston ISD's board of trustees will vote whether to implement a mask mandate. It comes on the heels of Superintendent Millard House II confirming to ABC13 last week that he would bring a mask mandate for consideration before the board.

He made the announcement hours after Hidalgo raised Harris County's COVID threat level to "severe," meaning that there is an uncontrolled level of COVID-19, outbreaks are present and worsening, and testing and contact tracing capacity are strained or exceeded.

HISD's mask mandate would be for all students, staff and visitors at all of their schools, buses and facilities. The mandate would become effective upon board approval.

House's about-face comes after he said earlier last week that he would not intend on going against Abbott's ban on mask mandates.

READ MORE: HISD superintendent to propose mask mandate in all schools

"Schools have an unspoken commitment to protect the children in their care. I can't imagine the state of Texas suing school districts that require masks to keep kids safe. That would be cynical and tragic," Hidalgo said in a Twitter thread that supported House's decision.

"I fully support the action Houston ISD Superintendent House is taking to require masks in schools. I hope that more will do the same, despite the state of Texas edict against masks in schools. It's a moment of necessary civil disobedience. Children's lives are literally at risk," the judge continued online.

Residents have spoken out as well.

On Monday, families and citizens planned to submit a petition to Abbott and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, asking them to reverse the ban on mask mandates in schools. As of this writing, more than 21,000 people have signed the petition.

SEE ALSO: Texas Dems want Gov. Abbott to reverse course on school mask mandate ban

Despite the increasing cases, Abbott said last month that he would not impose another statewide mask mandate, "and the reasons for that are very clear. There are so many people who have immunities to COVID, whether it be through the vaccination, whether it be through their own exposure and their recovery from it, which would be acquired immunity."

It would be "inappropriate to require people who already have immunity to wear a mask," he said.

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