The lawsuit claims that Texas’s statewide ban on mask mandates endangers disabled and medically compromised schoolchildren.
Disability Rights Texas has filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott, claiming his statewide ban on mask mandates puts handicapped students at risk.
According to The Dallas Morning News, the lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Western District in Austin. It challenges the legality of Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order No. 38, which broadly prohibits “governmental entities”—including counties, cities, and school districts—from enforcing any sort of mask mandate.
Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath is also named as a defendant.
The lawsuit suggests that this order makes it much more difficult for schools to ensure their students’ safety.
“In spite of national and local guidance urging precaution, Governor Abbott’s Executive Order prohibits local school districts from even considering whether to implement the most basic and effective COVID-19 prevention strategy in school settings,” the lawsuit states.
The complaint requests that a federal judge issue a temporary restraining order against GA-38, permitting individual districts to make their own decisions on mask mandates until the court case is resolved.
The Dallas Morning News notes that Disability Rights Texas is representing over a dozen students and families.
Disability Rights Texas says its lawsuit was filed on behalf of children with disabilities and underlying medical disorders, “which carry an increased risk of serious complications or death in the event that they contract COVID-19.”
Attorney Kym Rogers told the Morning News that Texas is endangering children’s lives.
“The ban on mask mandates is putting children with disabilities at significant risk and is discriminatory,” Rogers said. “We will do everything in our power to keep the Governor and [Texas Education Agency] from pushing these children out of schools or endangering their lives.”
While Texas permits at-risk children to attend school remotely, attorneys say the ban on mask mandates has forced parents to make difficult choices.
“There are no viable alternatives for students with disabilities who cannot safely return to school in-person due to the Governor’s Order and TEA’s Guidance,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants’ actions have put parents in the impossible situation of having to choose between the health and life of their child and educating their child.”
The complaint alleges that, even if children are allowed to attend virtual classes, distance-learning separates them from critical on-campus facilities, such as occupational therapy and counseling.
The Forth Worth Star-Telegram observes that one of the lawsuit’s central claims is that Gov. Abbott lacks the authority to limit school districts’ rights as employers and educational institutions, entitled to make their own decision about how best to protect students and teachers from danger.