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District court ruling blocks Fort Worth ISD mask requirement

The parents that filed the suit backed Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order that limits local governments and districts from requiring masks.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Updated at 8:30 p.m. with details from a Fort Worth ISD parent and other D-FW school districts. 

A district court judge ruled in favor of a group of Fort Worth Independent School District parents, blocking the district's face mask requirement for students and staff. The district said it would honor the ruling.

The four parents filed the lawsuit Thursday against the district and superintendent, claiming the district lacked the authority to require face masks due to Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order.

On Friday afternoon, 141st district court Judge John P. Chupp in Tarrant County issued a temporary restraining order.

The court found that the face mask rule from the district did violate Abbott's executive order GA-38. Abbott's executive order, issued earlier this year, which prohibited mask mandates from government entities, including schools. It also found that the face mask requirement violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.

The lawsuit says that the Texas Disaster Act allows the governor to supersede local regulations. The parents were granted a sum of $100.

Jennifer Treger is among four parents in Fort Worth ISD who sought to stop the school district from requiring masks. She said it should be up to parents.

"And they should get to decide what is best for their own child. It doesn't need to be a school or a district or a government. I am such a firm believer that parents get to have say over what they think is best for their own child."

"We believe Tuesday’s announcement regarding masks for students, employees, and visitors to our campuses was the right thing to do," the district said in a statement following the ruling. "However, we will certainly honor today’s court order blocking the mask requirement. Nevertheless, FWISD strongly recommends that all students, parents, employees and visitors, please, consider the importance of wearing a face mask while we are still in the midst of the pandemic and COVID cases remain high." 

Fort Worth ISD announced the mask requirement during a board meeting Tuesday when Superintendent Kent Scribner said he directed staff to add the mask requirement to back-to-school guidance. The first day of school is Monday, Aug. 16.

RELATED: Before Fort Worth ISD mask requirement, pediatricians urged district to 'please help us'

About 20 people spoke at the school board meeting, all in support of a mask mandate. Scribner also said he received a letter from 120 Cook Children's physicians who shared their concerns about students going without masks

Fort Worth ISD was just one of many larger districts across the state that went Abbott's executive order and ban on mask requirements.

Dallas County issued a mask requirement Wednesday, prompting masks in all of its districts. Crowley and Everman ISDs in Tarrant County are also requiring masks.

And today, parents rallied outside the district offices of the Hurst - Euless - Bedford school district, arguing either for masks or a remote learning option.

"Whatever other kids decide to do, what their family decides to do, effects my niece. And if she gets COVID, that's it. She will die from COVID," Lydia Meeks, the aunt of a H-E-B student. 

The same argument for remote learning is being considered in Northwest ISD, even though as recently as two days ago, the superintendent said it might not be possible. 

Arlington ISD wades into the fray as well. The district is now drafting a lawsuit against the governor to have the courts decide who should have the final say.

"As we've learned over the last year and a half as this pandemic continues to have twists and turns, and we have to be adaptable and we have to do that efficiently. So, this is really the big picture of who has this authority to even consider protocols for our local district," said Arlington ISD Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos.

Austin ISD and Houston ISD are also requiring masks in schools.

On Tuesday, a Bexar County judge issued a temporary restraining order against the state, allowing public school officials in the San Antonio area to issue mask-wearing mandates.