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Facemask rule for schools overturned by US judge

schoolchildren wearing facemasks
schoolchildren wearing facemasks Image credit: npr.org

A judge in Texas has overturned a ban for face masks in schools to be a choice and not compulsory saying the rule puts disabled students at risk.

The ban was lifted in May by Governor Greg Abbott after the number of Covid-19 cases started to ease.

But the decision caused concern from families with disabled children who took legal action with a disability rights organization and Texas officials saying the ruling violated the ADA law introduced in 1990.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said: “The spread of COVID-19 poses an even greater risk for children with special health needs.

“Children with certain underlying conditions who contract COVID-19 are more likely to experience severe acute biological effects and to require admission to a hospital and the hospital’s intensive-care unit.”

Yeakel stated the law suggested by Abbott was unsafe for children with disabilities stopping them participating in school activities and forbid Attorney General Ken Paxton from introducing the order.

A law suit was filed against Abbott, Paxton and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath in August by a number of Texan families and the Disability Rights Texas group stating Abbott’s decision could put a number of vulnerable youngsters at high risk of catching the virus.

In a statement Disability Rights Texas’ litigation attorney Kym Davis Rogers said: "No student should be forced to make the choice of forfeiting their education or risking their health, and now they won’t have to.”

In response to the decision to overturn the ban Paxton tweeted: "My Agency is considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision.”

But Ryan Kercher, the attorney representing the state, said the attorney general and the state education agency were not enforcing the order so they could not sued.

Contradicting the statement Disability Rights Texas attorneys sent the attorney general a letter with a list of schools Paxton sent “threatening” letters to forcing them to imply a law for children to wear facemasks saying if they did not abide they would be breaking the rule.

A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showed that 57% of voters support mask requirements in indoor public spaces based on local conditions.