A mask mandate in Fort Bend ISD schools lasted all of 48 hours, with district representatives over the weekend releasing updated guidance that masks would again be only recommended in light of recent Texas Supreme Court rulings.
Several counties and school districts across the state have been battling Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in court in recent weeks, arguing that he doesn’t have the legal authority to issue executive orders banning mask mandates as cases of coronavirus spike.
Interestingly, however, the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling last week was on a temporary measure, and offers no definitive answer in the ongoing spat over the legality of mask mandates. It’s not clear what basis district administrators in FBISD are using to reverse a 4-3 trustee vote last week to institute a mask mandate.
“While the lawsuits challenging executive order GA-38 are not over, right now the provisions of executive order GA-38 that bar mask mandates are effective,” the district wrote in a news release. “In light of this legal development, at this time, the district is not requiring the wearing of masks. The district continues to strongly urge employees, students, parents and visitors to wear a mask.”
The district’s decision late Saturday is only the latest turn in the ongoing battle between Abbott, counties and school districts across Texas over whether or not the governor has the legal authority to ban mask mandates.
It’s not clear what, exactly, led to the district’s decision on Saturday to reverse trustees’ 4-3 vote last week to institute a mask mandate amid rising cases of the delta variant of coronavirus across campuses.
Sherry Williams, a spokesperson for FBISD, on Monday declined to provide an administrator or anyone associated with the district to answer specific questions about the decision, or elaborate on the legal reasoning behind it.
The Texas Supreme Court last week sided with Abbott’s request to temporarily overturn a Bexar County temporary injunction. That injunction had briefly given the county the ability to institute a mask mandate, according to an article on KSAT.
While temporarily removing that injunction, the court made no decision on the case as a whole.
Furthermore, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in court documents acknowledged that neither he nor Abbott actually had power to enforce the ban on mask mandates, according to the Texas Tribune.
Legal experts have told the Fort Bend Star it will be some time before the Texas Supreme Court makes a definitive ruling in the ongoing spat over mask mandates. Most of the ongoing rulings are over procedural issues, according to attorneys.
The Texas Education Agency as of Monday had not withdrawn earlier guidance that they would not enforce Abbott’s mask mandate ban until the issue had wound its way through the courts.