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Texas Supreme Court: Yeah Sure Masks Whatever, Can't We Just Ban Abortion Instead?
Schools with mask mandates safe for another fifteen minutes.
The Great Texas Mask Mandate Fuck-Tussle took another odd turn yesterday, as the state's Supreme Court temporarily allowed local mask mandates to remain in place — but only because of a technicality. As you'll recall, with the Delta variant of the coronavirus running wild through the state, a whole bunch of school districts, cities, and counties have decided to ignore Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order banning any unit of government from requiring masks, and a number of state courts have issued restraining orders blocking the enforcement of Abbott's order.
Yesterday, the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear State Attorney General Ken Paxton's challenge to another of those lower court rulings, but it didn't actually address the merits of the case, as the Texas Tribune explains:
The high court left in place a Travis County judge's temporary restraining orders against Abbott's ban on mask mandates. The court's order cited a provision that typically requires matters to go to an appellate court before it reaches the state's highest civil court.
Paxton asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to overturn a series of temporary restraining orders issued by state District Judge Jan Soifer that allowed Harris County and eight school districts to mandate masks in public schools. Soifer also ruled that Abbott could not enforce his executive order banning mask mandates "against Texas independent school districts."
So until the matter goes through the right appeals process, Harris County and those school districts can keep their mask orders in place. Given that the state Supremes have already temporarily upheld Abbott's order in a different case, that reprieve may not last long, unfortunately.
At this point, at least eight counties and 58 school districts across the state are failing to respect Abbott's authoriteh, according to a list of malefactors compiled by Paxton's office. But if you ask us, the great big image of the deadly virus on the state AG's website doesn't really make the schools and counties look like the bad guys.
The Tribune adds that Paxton's office has "argued that the local mandates were causing 'mass confusion' in Texas," although we'd argue right back that if anyone's sowing confusion, its a state government that's actively working against efforts to control a deadly disease.
We have to say we like the approach taken by the Paris Independent School District, which is on Paxton's shit list for its novel strategy: Students, teachers, and others are required to wear masks as part of the district's dress code, which also bars long untucked shirt tails, spaghetti strap tops, and other unseemly garb. Finally a dress code we can at least partly get behind. Maybe if Greg Abbott had been a student at Paris High, he wouldn't have contracted the virus himself.
In another setback for Abbott and Paxton and their friend the virus yesterday, a state appeals court ruled that mask mandates in San Antonio and Bexar County can stay in place until a trial is held, upholding a lower court's order blocking enforcement of Abbott's executive order.
In an order issued Thursday , the 4th Court of Appeals reasoned that allowing local governments to have policies to protect public health maintained the status quo, while Abbott actually changed it with his July executive order prohibiting governmental entities from mandating masks.
The state appeals court did not add "neener neener, you ghoul," because that would be very unprofessional.
On top of that, the Texas Education Agency let schools know that because of all the lawsuits, it will suspend enforcement of Abbott's ban on mask mandates until the issue is finally settled in the courts. The TEA had previously issued guidance to schools upholding Abbott's mask ban and advising schools that while they do have to report COVID-19 cases to state and local health authorities, they wouldn't have to inform parents.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the new TEA public health letter
recommended public school systems consult local public health officials and legal counsel before making final decisions. It also requires districts to notify their teachers, staff members and families if a test confirms a COVID-19 case in a classroom or extracurricular activity. The state previously only recommended such notification.
That's a hell of an improvement, for sure. The TEA said it will issue further guidance on mask mandates once the legal dust and stray respiratory droplets settle.
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