Seven counties and 48 school districts have imposed masking and social distancing requirements, the Texas Attorney General reported Wednesday.
A statement posted on the Attorney General’s website also reported that three charter schools opposed Governor Greg Abbott’s order banning local masking and social distancing mandates to prevent the spread of COVID-19, particularly the highly contagious Delta Variant. Most have been notified of their non-compliance in writing, the statement said.
Meanwhile, disability lawyers have filed a federal lawsuit challenging Abbott’s order on civil rights grounds.
Most of the county and school district mask and social distancing mandates affected urban centers and their suburbs, although a handful of small town counties affected. One, the Paris School District in East Texas, said he made his mandate part of his dress code.
Nueces County and eight school districts – the Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, Coppell and Cedar Hill counties in North Texas, the Dripping Springs, Judson and Killeen counties in central Texas and the Fort Bend Ward in the suburbs of Houston – have reversed previous mandates in response to the AG’s statement .
The civil rights lawsuit filed Tuesday in Austin federal court by Disability Rights Texas on behalf of the families of 14 disabled students alleged violations of the federal anti-discrimination law under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The 14 are children under the age of 12 enrolled in school districts with no masking and social distancing mandates. The children have disabilities such as Down syndrome, spina bifida, epilepsy, autism and other underlying diseases that put them at increased risk of serious complications and death if they contract COVID-19, the lawsuit said.
“When school districts are unable to implement the COVID-19 protocol in the way they deem appropriate, parents of medically vulnerable students must decide whether to keep their children at home or move them to an environment that is a serious one Poses a risk to their health and “safety,” the lawsuit states. As a result, Abbott’s ruling prevents school districts from complying with the ADA and providing students with disabilities with access to public schooling.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction and injunctions against the Abbott ban.
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office did not immediately return a message requesting comment.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new COVID-19 cases in Texas is nearly 14,500, which has increased by nearly 5,300, or nearly 54%, over the past two weeks, according to research data from Johns Hopkins University. The 25,104 new cases reported by the Texas Department of Health on Wednesday are the most since Jan. 20