Courts in two U.S. states issued preliminary wins to advocates pushing for requirements that students wear masks in school, but the underlying issue is set for further legal review.
The Texas Supreme Court in a one-sentence order Thursday rejected Gov. Greg Abbott’s request for quick action to stop localities from imposing mask mandates in schools. The ruling forces the governor, who is currently quarantining after testing positive for coronavirus, to go through the appellate court before seeking action from the state supreme court. The same court had previously upheld his ban on local mask mandates.
In Florida, another state where the governor is seeking to stop school mask mandates, a judge on Thursday denied a request to throw out a lawsuit challenging that ban. Further hearings will be held next week in Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee.
The rulings are the latest in a flurry of lawsuits that have come as the school year begins amid a surge of coronavirus cases, driven by the delta variant, across many parts of the U.S. Some Republican governors have called mask wearing a matter of personal responsibility rather than a government requirement. Earlier this week, President Joe Biden directed his education secretary to take steps — including legal action — to counter governors who have prevented schools from requiring children to wear masks.
A dozen states now require students in kindergarten to 12th grade to wear masks, while another handful bar such mandates. Litigation is underway in at least five states, as more children are sent to hospitals with the highly contagious delta variant.
However, on Friday, Florida imposed its first penalties against school districts that don’t allow parents to opt their children out of mask rules.
The state Board of Education alerted Broward and Alachua school board members that funding equal to their salaries will be withheld if they don’t change their stance within 48 hours, something Broward School Board members have shown no interest in doing.
Broward would potentially lose about $31,182 a month, which is equal to the monthly salaries of the eight School Board members who supported the mask mandate. The state will not withhold funding for the salary of Board member Lori Alhadeff, the only member who voted against the mandate. School Board members make $46,773 a year.