Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Friday that he had filed lawsuits against six school districts in the state for implementing mask mandates in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order.
In a statement, Paxton accused superintendents of diverting school funds to defend lawsuits challenging the mandates — and warned he would take more districts to court if he saw the need to do so.
“Not only are superintendents across Texas openly violating state law, but they are using district resources—that ought to be used for teacher merit raises or other educational benefits—to defend their unlawful political maneuvering,” Paxton said.
“If districts choose to spend their money on legal fees, they must do so knowing that my office is ready and willing to litigate these cases. I have full confidence that the courts will side with the law – not acts of political defiance.”
Abbott’s order, signed July 29, prohibited government officials and entities — including “a county, city, school district, and public health authority” — from forcing people to wear masks. Exceptions are made in the order for state-run hospitals and state-funded senior living centers, as well as jails.
The lawsuits filed Friday challenge mask mandates issued by districts in Richardson, Round Rock, Galveston, Elgin, Spring and Sherman. As of Friday night, Paxton’s website included a list of 91 other districts — including Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio — deemed to not be in compliance with Abbott’s order.
A second list counted more than 20 school district that had dropped mask mandates in compliance with the governor’s action.
On Aug. 15, the Supreme Court of Texas blocked school mask mandates from going into effect in Dallas and Bexar counties, where Dallas and San Antonio are located. However, local officials kept those mandates in place, arguing that their specific orders had either not been struck down or a final decision on the issue had not yet been made.
Adding to the confusion, a state district judge granted San Antonio and Bexar County a temporary injunction against Abbott’s order the following day. On Aug. 26, the state supreme court granted the governor temporary relief from that injunction.
The fight over school masking in Texas mirrors a similar battle playing out in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis’ own ban on mask mandates was reinstated Friday by the Sunshine State’s First District Court of Appeals. The matter is likely to be settled by the state Supreme Court.
“No surprise here – the 1st DCA has restored the right of parents to make the best decisions for their children,” DeSantis tweeted in response to the ruling. “I will continue to fight for parents’ rights.”
DeSantis and Abbott, both Republicans, have argued that parents, not school or health officials, should determine whether their kids must wear masks to class — a stance that has brought them repeatedly into conflict with the Biden administration.
With Post wires