A federal appellate court Wednesday temporarily restored Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting school districts from mandating students to wear masks. The ruling halted a federal judge’s order that the ban violated the rights of students with disabilities.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 15-page ruling, granted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s request to stay the earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel as the case heads through the appeals process, as reported by The Herald.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel last month ruled in favor of a nonprofit group Disabled Rights Texas, and struck down the governor’s order, claiming the ban on mask mandates in schools violated the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and forbid Paxton from suing school districts that disobeyed the executive order.
“The spread of COVID-19 poses an even greater risk for children with special health needs,” the judge said according to the New York Post. “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.”
Disability Rights Texas first filed against the state, arguing that the governor’s ban on mask mandates placed disabled children at higher risk for Covid-19 and denied them access to receive a public education, according to the Texas Tribune.
However, the three-panel judges from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated there was “no concrete, or actual or imminent, injury as a result of the enforcement” of the executive order.
“The district court’s analysis rests on the faulty premise that the only accommodation available to plaintiffs is their schools’ ability to impose mask mandates,” the decision read.
Attorney Dustin Rynders with Disability Rights Texas voiced disappointment with the judge’s ruling, saying, “Our suit has always been about allowing students with disabilities at high risk of COVID to attend schools in person as safely as possible.”
“As new COVID variants threaten to make an improving situation worse again, it is imperative schools have the option of requiring masks in the class, campus or district as needed to protect vulnerable students,” Rynders said.
The appeals court considers the possibility that Paxton will most likely win his appeal.