Texas attorney general warns public schools can’t impose mask mandates

Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order still prohibits public school districts from imposing mask mandates.

Updated: August 24, 2022 - 11:34pm

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an advisory Wednesday as the new school year begins to clarify that no public schools can impose mask mandates.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order GA-38 still remains in effect, which prohibits public school districts from imposing mask mandates as a condition to receive in-person instruction. It also prohibits school districts from requiring students, teachers or visitors to wear face masks or coverings.

The order states, “no governmental entity, including a county, city, school district, and public health authority, and no governmental official may require any person to wear a face covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering.”

The order also states that any local government entity or official found to be in noncompliance is subject to a fine of up to $1,000 per violation.

Paxton says he remains “steadfast in his defense of the Governor’s order” and “will continue to stand up for the rule of law and the right of every student to learn free from harmful and unlawful mask mandates.”

A governor’s executive orders “have the force and effect of law” and supersede local regulations, Paxton reiterated in the advisory.

The Texas Education Agency also mandated that public school systems must “operate in compliance with existing state laws and regulations, including all executive orders issued by the governor of Texas in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that are currently in effect.”

Since Abbott issued GA-38, Paxton’s office has fought cities and school districts that violated it. While some legal challenges remain pending before the Texas Supreme Court, all court orders attempting to block the governor’s order have been blocked.

“Simply put, parents can send their children to public schools without worrying about new mask mandates,” Paxton says. The governor’s executive order, GA-38, “remains the law in the State of Texas, and my office stands ready to uphold the rule of law in Texas,” he says.