Texas judge grants temporary restraining order against Abbott's school mask mandate ban

A Texas judge on Tuesday approved a temporary restraining order preventing the enforcement of Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) ban on mask mandates in schools, just hours after leaders from San Antonio and Bexar County filed a challenge.

Bexar County Civil District Court Judge Toni Arteaga approved the order following an hourlong hearing Tuesday, allowing county and city school officials to require masks in public schools until an additional decision is made on Abbott’s executive order on Monday, according to local ABC affiliate KSAT.

“I don’t do this lightly,” Arteaga said in court, noting that ​​comments from the San Antonio medical director “weighed heavily” in her decision, as well as the fact that the school year has already started for students in many areas across the state.

“And those under 12 of course, as you know, don’t have access to the vaccine, and they’re already in school,” the judge added, according to The Washington Post. 

“So I do find that this is emergent, I do find that it is necessary,” she added. 

The city of San Antonio and Bexar County filed the lawsuit earlier Tuesday asking the court to put a temporary hold on Abbott’s executive order so that it could require masks in public schools, as well as mandate that unvaccinated students quarantine if they are determined to have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. 

The decision represents a blow for Abbott, who issued the executive order in late July, saying at the time that entities that failed to comply could be fined up to $1,000. 

In response to the ruling, Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze said in a statement to several news outlets that the governor’s “resolve to protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans has not wavered.” 

“There have been dozens of legal challenges to the Governor’s executive orders — all of which have been upheld in the end,” she added. “We expect a similar outcome when the San Antonio trial court’s decision is reviewed by the appellate courts.”

The legal fight comes as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is engaged in a similar battle with local school districts who are aiming to defy the governor’s ban on mask requirements in public schools. 

The Broward County School Board on Tuesday voted 8-1 to maintain its mask mandate and is seeking legal counsel to challenge DeSantis’s executive order. 

The school superintendents for Florida’s Leon and Alachua counties have also said they would enforce mask mandates in defiance of the governor’s order, which was hit with its first legal challenges Friday with two lawsuits questioning the ban’s constitutionality.

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