Despite warnings from health experts, contradictory data, and a growing number of governments discarding old mandates, school officials across Texas are again forcing masks on children—and top state officials remain quiet.
On Monday, Texas Scorecard sent an inquiry to the Texas Education Agency—the state government department that oversees the public school system statewide—about the ongoing mask mandate issue.
“According to Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order last year and the TEA’s public health guidance earlier in January, school administrators are not allowed to force students to wear face coverings,” wrote Texas Scorecard in an email. “The TEA guidance states in part, ‘Per GA-38 [Gov. Abbott’s order], school systems cannot require students or staff to wear a mask. GA-38 addresses government-mandated face coverings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.’”
“However, school officials across the state have disregarded that and instead mandated masks on students, staff, and visitors at schools. How is the TEA responding to the school districts that are currently ignoring your guidance and the governor’s executive order?” asked Texas Scorecard.
As of Thursday afternoon, the TEA has not replied.
The Ongoing Story — and Still No Action
The controversy has again stirred over the past few weeks, as public school districts across the state—including in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, and South Texas—have either continued or reinstated mask mandates on school campuses. Many administrators have cited a growing number of cases of the mild omicron variant as the reason to continue mask requirements, even though the spread occurred during the mask requirements.
The fight over forced face coverings is currently tied up in court and traces back to last year when Gov. Abbott and local officials began feuding over who has authority to impose such orders. Abbott, who had previously enacted executive orders to force masks and shut down businesses, flipped last July and proclaimed a new executive order prohibiting mask mandates.
However, in response, local officials across Texas disregarded his order, enacted their own rules, and sued the governor. In January, the Democrat-majority 3rd Court of Appeals was the latest to side against Abbott, but the case is being appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.
In the meantime, school administrators are mandating as they wish.
Furthermore, Abbott and the Republican-controlled state Legislature could have resolved the issue a year ago by passing a state law to ban mask mandates. However, they declined to act, and Abbott has repeatedly refused to add the issue to a special legislative session.
Meanwhile, health experts have warned against forced masking, particularly on children, and the Center for Disease Control even released a study in 2020 detailing that masks were not effective in stopping the spread of the flu (a virus similar in size to the coronavirus).
“There’s no evidence that a mask mandate was effective in stopping the cases from spreading. … And, in fact, there is evidence, as [a fellow doctor] cited, that the people in the United States at a very high frequency had been wearing masks for months and the cases exploded,” said Stanford University’s Dr. Scott Atlas. “Whether it’s in certain states like Hawaii, Minnesota … you could look at all the data. So, this has sort of become folklore—one of the many obsessions—and it’s been harmful.”
“Children should not wear face masks, no. They don’t need it for their own protection, and they don’t need it for protecting other people, either,” said Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a biostatistician, epidemiologist, and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The Irish Health Authority, after conducting a report on the subject last year, even called the forced masking of kids “child abuse.” The CDC also recognized in January that cloth masks provided the “least protection” against the virus.
Concerned Texans may contact their state representative, their state senator, or the governor.