As a result, the lower court ruling allowing school districts to require masks in their schools still stands.
The decision is the latest in a culmination of battles between local leaders — who cite the need for mandatory masking to curb the spread of Covid-19 in schools — and the state government, which said parents and students should have freedom of choice in whether to wear masks.
Abbott wanted the Supreme Court to rule quickly, superseding a state court rule that says that unless there is a compelling reason to not do so, a petition for the court to order a government official to take an action must first go to the Texas Court of Appeals, which is the intermediate appellate court, before it can go to the Texas Supreme Court.
The governor argued that state officials did not have time to go through the regular appeals process, and that allowing local governments to set their own mandate rules would cause confusion.
Abbott can still appeal, but he must do so to the court of appeals, before he can go to the state supreme court.
The top court had sided with Abbott on Sunday as it temporarily blocked mask mandates in San Antonio and Dallas. Local officials then either defied the ruling, stating the court’s decision did not apply to them, or tailored their mandates around the Supreme Court’s decision.
On Tuesday, additional school districts voted to require masks. One district, The Paris Independent School District, voted to amend its current dress code in order to work in requirements for masks.
“The board believes the dress code can be used to mitigate communicable health issues, and therefore has amended the PISD dress code to protect our students and employees,” the district said in a statement.
Abbott had asked the Supreme Court for an expedient ruling after judges and officials in additional districts, such as Houston’s Harris County, issued school mask mandates.
In the meantime, the Texas Education Agency issued new guidance, saying it will not enforce restrictions on mask mandates while litigation is ongoing. Once the court issues are resolved, the agency said, it will issue further guidance.
The agency also said it recommends “that public school systems consult with their local public health authorities and local legal counsel before making final decisions regarding the implementation of this guidance.”