UPDATE: Aug. 20, 2021: Following federal intervention this week, the Texas Education Agency announced Thursday it will not enforce Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on school mask mandates, according to The Daily News of Galveston County. In recent weeks, dozens of public school districts in the state — including Dallas, Galveston and Texas City — had defied the order despite the threat of legal and financial consequences.
- The Texas Supreme Court ruled to temporarily block mask mandates issued by local districts defying a state order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott prohibiting such requirements. The decision overturns a previous lower court's ruling that allowed districts to continue with their mask requirements and applies until future lower court decisions.
- Dallas Independent School District is among districts pushing forward with their mandates despite the block, said Superintendent Michael Hinojosa in a press conference. "I think we're all going to be ready to pivot at any moment," Hinojosa said, adding decisions are constantly changing. "This is why superintendents and doctors have been hung out to dry on all of these matters."
- A hearing was scheduled for Bexar County on Monday, while a separate hearing for Dallas is scheduled on Aug. 24. Hinojosa said he would comply if another decision by the courts specifies Dallas ISD rather than Dallas County generally, and other districts are tweaking their decisions based on the order, encouraging masks instead of requiring them.
The decision comes just days after U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona sent a letters Friday to Texas and Florida, which has a similar mandate in place restricting masking requirements, urging governors to reconsider their bans. Cardona strongly supported districts in their decisions to issue mandates despite governors' orders, saying the orders "may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by Federal law."
In Texas, Abbott's decision to block mask mandates and the Texas Education Agency's decision to make contact-tracing in schools optional directly counter guidance encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House.
Hinojosa cited politics as a source of contention in making such decisions. "We're a blue city in a purple county and in a red state," said Hinojosa. "And even as things are evolving, medical doctors and school superintendents get stuck out there on the front line because we get conflicting information."
In previously speaking to K-12 Dive and prior to the Texas Supreme Court's decision, Hinojosa said he would continue to issue mask mandates in "civil disobedience."
"If you think something's not right, you cannot put your personal career and feelings in front of what's the right thing to do," he said.
Hinojosa and other superintendents taking similar decisions in Texas and Florida face potential threats to their jobs in defying state orders. "I don't want to go out this way, but you gotta do what you gotta do, what's in the best interest of your school district," Hinojosa told K-12 Dive last week.