A federal judge on Wednesday struck down a ban on mask mandates in Texas schools. Judge Lee Yeakel of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas said in a 29-page ruling that Republican Governor Greg Abbott‘s executive order banning masks in schools violated the rights of differently-abled and special needs students.

Abbott signed the edict in August. Disabled Rights Texas, a non-profit advocacy group, quickly challenged the legality of the order. Defendants in the case include Abbott, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Mike Morath, the commissioner of the Texas Educational Agency.

“The spread of Covid-19 poses an even greater risk for children with special health needs. Children with certain underlying conditions who contract Covid-19 are more likely to experience severe acute biological effects and to require admission to a hospital and the hospital’s intensive-care unit. This includes children with conditions including, Down syndrome, organ transplants, lung conditions, heart conditions, and weakened immune systems,” Yeakel said in his decision.

“The court concludes that Plaintiffs have standing to challenge GA-38 in this court because they allege a concrete and particularized injury that is redressable,” the judge said. “During the 2020 2021 school year, several school districts around the state adopted, implemented, and enforced mask mandates for students, staff, and teachers. Paxton has a willingness to enforce and is actively enforcing GA-38 by both his words and his actions, and the court finds that Paxton’s actions create an enforcement connection sufficiently connected with his duty to enforce. If GA-38 were not enforced, school districts would have the discretion to implement a mandatory mask policy on school grounds without violating GA-38 and risking a lawsuit by Paxton. Therefore, it is not merely speculative that enjoining enforcement of GA-38 will redress Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries.”

The judge also ruled that the ban violated protections enshrined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Paxton’s office has vowed to appeal.

“I strongly disagree with Judge Yeakel’s opinion barring my office from giving effect to GA-38, which prohibits mask mandates imposed by government entities like school districts,” Paxton tweeted Wednesday. “My Agency is considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision.”

 

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