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UT law professor predicts Austin-Travis County will face the Texas Supreme Court about masking

Unlike other local governments in Texas, Austin-Travis County hasn't sued the governor for banning mask mandates in schools.

AUSTIN, Texas — Parents around Central Texas await the final outcome of the school mask mandate.

Outside of Pflugerville Middle School on Monday, all kids were masked up.

Right now, Austin-Travis County's mask mandate for schools still stands in defiance of the governor's order.

While some schools are following the governor, Pflugerville ISD is not, but seventh-grader Kalib and his grandma said they hope it changes. 

"It's just difficult wearing a mask and waking up at 6 a.m. for football and then wearing a mask all the way until 3:30 p.m.," said seventh-grader Kalib. 

University of Texas law professor Randy Erben predicts local governments will have to face the Texas Supreme Court at some point and it won't be pretty. 

"The Texas Supreme Court has consistently upheld the governor's disaster authority to issue binding executive orders and suspend statutes necessary to address the pandemic in a variety of contexts," he said.

On Sunday, the Texas Supreme Court granted stay orders temporarily blocking mask mandates issued by local leaders in San Antonio and Dallas.

Parent Titus Njoku, who was picking his sixth-grader from school, said as long as COVID-19 cases are up, masks should be too. 

"They can rule on whatever they want to rule, but at the end of the day everybody needs to be safe," said Njoku.

Unlike other local governments in Texas, Austin-Travis County hasn't sued the governor. But if the state Supreme Court ended up ruling in the governor's favor and districts still kept their mask mandates, they may face more than the $1,000 fine outlined in the governor's executive order.

"If they violate a court order, there's a contempt of court and they're subject to penalties and all different other kinds of consequences," said Erben. "We haven't gotten to that point yet." 

Erben said until the higher court rules, his advice is to follow local orders.

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