AISD mask mandate goes into effect as battle with state continues

Austin ISD’s mask mandate went into effect on Wednesday as the district prepares to welcome back students for in-person classes next week.

AISD is one of several school districts around Texas defying Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates. Dallas ISD and Fort Worth ISD also announced mask mandates, and Houston ISD is expected to follow suit.

Additionally, on Wednesday, Travis County Judge Andy Brown announced on Twitter that he and Mayor Steve Adler signed an order mandating that all public schools in the county must enforce mask-wearing.

Back in May, Abbott issued an executive order banning any public entity from mandating masks. Abbott’s office released a statement after the school districts made their announcements, saying in part:

"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 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."

Attorney General Ken Paxton also responded in a tweet on Tuesday saying that he "will continue to defend against these violations." 

It's unclear what kind of action the AG's Office could potentially take against schools. However, on Wednesday, Abbott and Paxton filed a petition to strike down a ruling by a Dallas County judge. The judge ruled Tuesday that the County could move forward with a mask mandate - that included schools - in defiance of Abbott’s order. 

Meanwhile, Abbott is now facing lawsuits from Bexar County and Harris County over the order. The Southern Center for Child Advocacy also filed a lawsuit in Travis County over the weekend. 

"Does it make sense for the same anti-mask mandate to apply to Loving County with 82 folks and Houston ISD where there are, literally, hundreds of thousands of kids?" said Hank Bostwick with The Southern Center for Child Advocacy. "We don’t need to expand the power of the executive branch to this degree."

Because of the recent decision to enforce mask-wearing, AISD extended the deadline for parents to choose traditional or virtual learning to Friday, Aug. 14. As of Wednesday, data provided to FOX 7 from AISD shows that 757 applicants for virtual learning had opted out of virtual learning. 

The total number of applicants that have chosen to move forward with virtual learning is 4,035, with 2,388 applicants from outside of the district.

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