Texas schools can continue forcing kids to wear face coverings for now, thanks to a ruling by the state’s high court that thwarts both Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates, as well as parents’ right to choose what’s best for their children.

Earlier this week, a Travis County court granted three temporary restraining orders that halt enforcement of Abbott’s order, allowing school districts across Texas to mandate masks.

In a ruling issued late Thursday, the Texas Supreme Court denied a request by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to put those TROs on hold while the courts consider whether to permanently block or allow mask mandates issued in violation of Abbott’s July 29 executive order.

Executive Order GA-38 (Abbott’s 31st COVID-related order since declaring the Chinese coronavirus a public health disaster in March 2020) prohibits most government officials and entities, including school districts, from mandating face coverings, leaving the decision to individuals.

Thursday’s ruling is just the latest in a series of conflicting orders, lawsuits, and countersuits involving state and local officials as well as parents who say forced masking is harmful to kids and violates parental choice.

Conservative author Charles C.W. Cooke agrees, writing in National Review that governors who ban mask mandates in schools are not banning voluntary mask-wearing in classrooms.

“Rather, they have all elected to leave the decision to mask children with parents rather than school boards,” he said, adding that across Europe “no child under the age of twelve is obliged to wear a mask, on the eminently sensible grounds that masks are ineffective and may adversely affect children’s development.”

Hearings are set for next week for the Travis County court to decide if the three temporary orders will be extended until trial next year, giving power to school boards over parents in the meantime. An extension of the orders could be appealed through ordinary legal processes.

The Texas Education Agency said in a new Public Health Guidance document issued Thursday that “mask provisions of GA-38 are not being enforced as the result of ongoing litigation,” adding that further guidance “will be made available after the court issues are resolved.”

Texas lawmakers chose not to address mask mandates earlier this year in the regular legislative session and failed to curtail the governor’s unilateral disaster powers, which Abbott used to mandate masks last year.

Abbott added Education, including that “the wearing of face coverings is not mandatory,” to his agenda for the second special session now in progress.

House Bill 127 by State Rep. Jeff Cason (R–Bedford) would ban all public school mask mandates for K-12 students, but none of the bills filed this session addressing mask mandates have been referred to a committee for consideration.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.