HOUSTON (BLOOMBERG) – The board of the Houston Independent School District, the seventh-largest United States school system, on Thursday (Aug 12) voted to require masks for students and teachers in class and on buses when classes begin Aug 23.
Three teachers and a teacher’s assistant in Florida’s Broward County died of Covid-19 this week, NBC 6 reported, citing the teachers’ union president.
The school district has nearly 200,000 students.
The vote came in defiance of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s order that governments not require masks.
“There are teachers out there who go home every day and think, ‘What are we bringing home to our families?” school board member Elizabeth Santos said.
About three dozen people lined up outside the meeting with signs both protesting and supporting the mandate.
One sign said, “Stop Tyranny,” and a person dressed as the Grim Reaper appeared with a sign saying “Unmask Your Kids.”
Texas Republican Governor Abbott has escalated the fight over his ban on local face mask rules, vowing along with his attorney general on Wednesday to drag into court “any school district, public university or local government official that decides to defy” the statewide edict.
But even as the two said they would immediately ask a state appeals court to wade into the fight, resistance to their campaign against mandatory masks was spreading.
On Wednesday, school district and municipal officials in Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Houston continued to roll out new masking rules aimed at slowing the rampage of Covid-19 across one of the nation’s hottest infection zones.
“The path forward relies on personal responsibility – not government mandates,” Abbott said in a statement hardening his stance against defiant local officials.
The governor said he’ll “vigorously fight” in court to “protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans.”
Abbott’s actions echo those of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a fellow Republican, who is embroiled in legal fights with parents seeking mask mandates for their children’s schools and companies wanting to require vaccine passports of customers.