TX Supreme Court allows school mandates to remain in Harris and Travis counties, for now

ByCourtney Carpenter KTRK logo
Friday, August 20, 2021
TX Supreme Court allows school mandates to remain, for now
It's a win for those in favor of mask mandates, but it's a win on a technicality. Here's why the request to block the mandates being denied could be temporary.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- The Texas Supreme Court has denied Gov. Greg Abbott's request to overturn the mask mandates in Harris and Travis counties, so they're in effect, for now.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is calling this "a victory for our kids' health."

"This is an important decision," said Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee. "It means Harris County's orders mandating masks for employees and students stand for now. Our lawsuit against the Governor will continue, and we'll keep giving all we've got to ensure local officials and school districts can protect our students and immunocompromised. I'm hopeful today's decision also means the Texas Supreme Court is taking a hard look at whether Governor Abbott is misusing the Disaster Act and needs to be reined in."

According to Abbott's order, those who defy the order will face a $1,000 charge.

Despite school districts and local governments considering this a step in the right direction, the ruling may only be temporary.

But for now, it does mean that when HISD students head back to school on Monday, they'll be required to mask up.

So, why could the ruling change? In simple terms, the Abbott administration skipped a step by not challenging the restraining order in an appeals court, but they'll still have the opportunity to do so, and likely will. For the local governments and school districts, this is a win, but on a technicality.

Now, parents are turning to their children's school districts to see if the ruling will change their stance on mask mandates.

Fort Bend ISD is one local district where masks are strongly encouraged, but not required. Many parents ABC13 has spoken to say they wish a mask mandate was in place. Fort bend ISD has a total of 536 active COVID-19 cases as of Friday morning.

"A lot of kids need to go to school. We want them in school. But at the same time, we are sending them and it's a dangerous situation, so we want them to have masks," parent, Jason Porter said. "It makes sense for everybody to have masks, but that's just not the case here."

Conroe ISD is another Houston-area district where masks are optional. Right now, their COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing.. They are reporting 900 total active COVID cases Friday morning. They've reported more than 100 new student cases each day since Monday.

There's more good news for those in favor of mask mandates in Fort Bend County. A district court judge decided to uphold their mask mandate in county buildings. Judge KP George is set to speak about the ruling at an 11 a.m. press conference Friday.

Last week, Galveston defied Abbott's executive order and issued a mask mandate for students and staff ahead of the first day of school.

The Harris County Attorney's Office recently announced it was filing a lawsuit challenging the governor's order. Hours later Hidalgo explained why the county's public health department was issuing a mask mandate for children ages two and older for all county-area public schools and non-religious private schools.

"I've spoken to all the superintendents," Hidalgo said in a press conference on Thursday. "I've spoken with teachers and parents, heard from them, and the overwhelming message was they need an advocate. They need an advocate, a local directive, local clarity on what the situation is. The situation is urgent. The situation is dire, because of how transmissible the variant is and because the schools are starting soon. At the same time, we had these legal developments."