Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed lawsuits Friday against six school districts that are not complying with GOP Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order banning mask mandates.
The Richardson, Round Rock, Galveston, Elgin, Spring, and Sherman Independent School Districts have implemented mask mandates, contradicting Abbott's Executive Order GA-38 banning the practice.
"Not only are superintendents across Texas openly violating state law, but they are using district resources — that ought to be used for teacher merit raises or other educational benefits — to defend their unlawful political maneuvering," Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a press release announcing the lawsuit filings Friday. "If districts choose to spend their money on legal fees, they must do so knowing that my office is ready and willing to litigate these cases. I have full confidence that the courts will side with the law – not acts of political defiance."
The six districts targeted by the AG are among 97 school districts throughout the state that presently are in "non-compliance" with Abbott's order, compared to 23 districts that have followed the order and do not mandate masks, according to the state.
While just six lawsuits have been filed, another 78 have received letters from the AG's office letting them know they are not in compliance with Abbott's order, and no action has been taken yet against eight other non-compliant districts.
Late last month, the Texas Supreme Court upheld Abbott's order in a case against San Antonio that keeps the mask mandate authority with the governor.
"The Texas Supreme Court has sided with the law, and the decision to enforce mask mandates lies with the governor's legislatively-granted authority," Paxton said Aug. 26 regarding that decision. "Mask mandates across our state are illegal, and judges must abide by the law. Further non-compliance will result in more lawsuits."
Abbott is not the only red-state leader battling with school districts on whether to mandate masks in the classroom.
Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis has also been fighting school districts and teachers' unions in that state that want to impose mandates for students.
DeSantis praised a First District Court ruling in that state Friday upholding his own mask ban.
"No surprise here – the (First District Court) has restored the right of parents to make the best decisions for their children," DeSantis said in a post on Twitter on Friday. "I will continue to fight for parents' rights."
Both governors have come under fire from the White House of democratic President Joe Biden, who called them out, though not by name, during a nationally televised speech Thursday.
"The path ahead, even with the delta variant, is not nearly as bad as last winter, but what makes it incredibly more frustrating is that we have the tools to combat COVID-19, and a distinct minority of Americans – supported by a distinct minority of elected officials — are keeping us from turning the corner," Biden said. "These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die. We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part and want to get back to life as normal."
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