Is Federal judge right overturning TX mask mandate ban for schools?

Chris O'Meara / AP

Fact Box

  • Gregory Wayne Abbott is the 48th governor of Texas, serving since 2015. He was labeled “best governor in the nation” in 2020. Previously, he was the longest-serving Attorney General of Texas.
  • On November 10, 2021, Texas Judge Lee Yeakel overruled Governor Abbott’s mask mandate ban in schools ruling that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, saying, “The spread of COVID-19 poses an even greater risk for children with special health needs.”
  • Governor Abbott signed Executive Order GA-36 on May 18, 2021, prohibiting government entities (including public schools) from enforcing mask mandates. 
  • As of November 10, 2021, 15.6 million Texans have been vaccinated which is 53.83% of the state’s population.

Jimmy (Yes)

Federal Judge Lee Yeakel recently overturned an executive order by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, prohibiting the state from banning mask mandates in schools. Finding the order at odds with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Yeakel claimed, 'The spread of COVID-19 poses an even greater risk for children with special health needs.' The Mayo Clinic supports this claim, reporting those in wheelchairs face increased coronavirus exposure. Additionally, a recent study shows people with intellectual disabilities are six times more likely to die of COVID-19. With cases once again on the rise, Yeakel was right to protect our children.

NPR reports that since the start of the school year, at least 45 districts in Texas have temporarily shut down due to COVID-19. With data showing that masks reduce the spread of coronavirus and are safe to wear, Abbott has stated his interests lie in 'defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up.' However, with over 750,000 Americans dead, including 645 children, this liberty affects more than just those choosing. 

Ethicist John Rawls defined the concept of the common good as 'conditions that are . . . equally to everyone's advantage.' Though Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez of SCU note the difficulty of such conditions, 'in this individualistic culture,' organizations like the OECD call for 'decisive action by governments in order to support the most vulnerable people.' Since Governor Abbott has routinely issued executive orders flouting COVID-19 safety measures, we must now rely on the federal courts to protect the vulnerable. 


Curtice (No)

A federal judge overturned the Texas ban on mandated masks in public schools, claiming it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The judge stated that COVID-19 poses a greater risk for children with special health needs. Texas is considering an appeal, believing this is a state issue, not a federal one.

Students are free to wear masks if they and their parents choose, thereby providing appropriate accommodations for children with special health needs. What seems to be overlooked by the judge overseeing this ban are all kids, not just those with respiratory disabilities, will face health issues from prolonged mask-wearing. 

Likewise, the efficacy of wearing masks is inconclusive. Early in the pandemic, even Dr. Anthony Fauci said that facemasks weren't very effective. Later, he changed his stance to support the opposing concept that everyone should be wearing masks. This was one of the many flip-flops on positions Fauci has made during the pandemic. The CDC and WHO also have issued conflicting statements on masks as well.  

Second, through August 4, 2021, the CDC reported a total of 349 COVID-related deaths in the United States for ages 0-17 since the beginning of the pandemic. That is 0.057% of all COVID deaths in the US. For contrast, the total number of deaths for the same age bracket during the 2019-2020 flu season was 486. According to the numbers, COVID poses minimal risks to children.

Between remote learning, social distancing, mask-wearing, lockdowns, and other COVID restrictions, children's mental health has suffered. Yet little concern or attention has been given to them by the authorities in place. Masks exhaust kids (MIES), are psychologically damaging and impact their sociological childhood development—all of which should matter to society and the courts.

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