A U.S. federal judge Wednesday struck down Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s ban on mandatory face masks in local schools.
Judge Lee Yeakel said Abbott’s order violated the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and provides accessibility to all public spaces. The judge said the order puts disabled children who are vulnerable to COVID-19 at greater risk of contracting the virus.
“The spread of COVID-19 poses an even greater risk for children with special health needs,” Yeakel said in his ruling. “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.”
The order also prohibits the state from imposing fines or withholding funds from school districts that have imposed mask-wearing.
The order is in response to a lawsuit against Abbott’s policy filed by advocacy group Disability Rights Texas.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has openly pressured local districts to comply with Abbott’s order, tweeted that his agency “is considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision.”
Abbott is one of several conservative Republican governors across the United States who has issued orders banning local school districts from imposing a mask mandate policy as a strategy to stop the spread of COVID-19. The issue has led to bitter clashes across the country between supporters and opponents, who argue that mandates infringe on individual liberties.
Some information for this report comes from AP and Reuters.