5 of the 10 Biggest School Districts in Texas Now Require Masks, Defying Greg Abbott's Ban

Five out of Texas' 10 largest school districts are now requiring masks for students and staff members, defying an executive order signed by Governor Greg Abbott, prohibiting school districts from mandating masks.

In May, Abbott signed the executive order barring school districts from mandating masks but after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidelines recommending mask-wearing in schools, several districts across the state have announced new mandates.

The five school districts in Texas that have decided to require masks for students and staff include the Dallas Independent School District, Austin Independent School District, Forth Worth Independent School District, Northeast Independent School District and Houston Independent School District.

The Houston Independent School District Superintendent Millard House II told KPRC 2 in Texas on Wednesday that the state's largest school district plans to impose a mask mandate for students and staff at the start of the upcoming school year. While speaking with KPRC 2, House II said that he expects the district's board members to vote in favor of mandating masks but noted that a vote is not required for the district to impose masks.

In an email sent to KPRC 2, a spokesperson for the Houston Independent School District said, "The vote is not needed for implementation, but Mr. House is asking for the board to take a vote of support."

In an update posted to its website, the Dallas Independent School District wrote that starting on August 10, "to protect staff and students from the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, Dallas ISD is temporarily requiring all staff, students and visitors to wear masks when on district property." The Dallas Independent School District is the second-largest district in the state.

The update also stated that "Governor Abbott's order does not limit the district's rights as an employer and educational institution to establish reasonable and necessary safety rules for its staff and students. Dallas ISD remains committed to the safety of our students and staff."

The Austin Independent School District, the state's fifth-largest district, also posted a similar update on its website saying that students, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks beginning on August 11.

"I am responsible for the safety, health and welfare of each and every one of our students and our staff. If I err, I must err on the side of ensuring that we've been overly cautious, not that we have fallen short," Superintendent Stephanie S. Elizalde said in the update.

During a board meeting on Tuesday, Fort Worth Independent School District Superintendent Kent P. Scribner announced that masks will be required for all students and staff members during indoor instruction and activities.

On Tuesday, the Northeast Independent School District said in an update on its website that following a temporary restraining order granted in a Bexar County Court against Governor Greg Abbott's executive order banning mask mandates in Texas schools, the district will follow guidelines from the CDC and require students, staff and visitors to wear masks when indoors.

Some of the other largest school districts in Texas have announced that they will encourage masks but stopped short of a mandate, such as the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, the Northside Independent School District and the Aldine Independent School District.

Following the defiance by numerous school districts in Texas, Abbott's press secretary Renae Eze said in a statement sent to Newsweek that "We are all working to protect Texas children and those most vulnerable among us, but violating the Governor's executive orders—and violating parental rights—is not the way to do it."

"Governor Abbott has been clear that the time for mask mandates is over; now is the time for personal responsibility. Parents and guardians have the right to decide whether their child will wear a mask or not, just as with any other decision in their child's life. Governor Abbott has spent his entire time in office fighting for the rights and freedoms of all Texans, and our office continues working with the Office of the Attorney General to do just that," Eze said in the statement sent to Newsweek. "The best defense against this virus is the COVID vaccines, and we continue to strongly encourage all eligible Texans to get vaccinated."

On Wednesday, Abbott also posted a tweet saying that "Any school district, public university, or local government official that decides to defy GA-38—which prohibits gov't entities from mandating masks—will be taken to court."

Texas Masks
Several of the largest school districts in Texas have announced that they will require masks for students and staff, defying an executive order signed by Governor Greg Abbott. Above, a Covid-19 restriction sign hangs inside a T-Mobile store on March 3, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Montinique Monroe/Getty