Federal judge rules Texas schools can issue mask mandates.

The ruling comes after months of politicized disputes over measures to prevent the spread of Covid in the state.

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Federal judge rules Texas schools can issue mask mandates.

Students wearing their school-required masks wait for their parents outside Lamar Elementary School in San Antonio, in August.Credit…Matthew Busch for The New York Times

Nov. 10, 2021, 9:16 p.m. ET

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in Texas schools violates the rights of students with disabilities, clearing the path for districts in the state to issue their own rules for face coverings, a decision that could affect more than 5 million students.

The ruling comes after months of politicized disputes over measures to prevent the spread of Covid that had pitted many parents of students with disabilities against the governor and other state officials who maintained that protecting against the virus was a matter of personal responsibility. Judge Lee Yeakel of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas made the ruling.

Siding with the parents and the organization Disability Rights Texas, Judge Yeakel ruled that the order from the governor violated the 1990 law because it put children with disabilities at risk.

Judge Yeakel’s ruling also prohibited the attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, from enforcing the order by Mr. Abbott, who has repeatedly opposed Covid-related mandates.

“The spread of COVID-19 poses an even greater risk for children with special health needs,” Judge Yeakel said. “Children with certain underlying conditions who contract Covid-19 are more likely to experience severe acute biological effects and to require admission to a hospital and the hospital’s intensive-care unit.”

The State Supreme Court has repeatedly sided with the governor by allowing his ban to remain in effect.

But the impact of Wednesday’s ruling could ripple across the country as other Republican-controlled states seek to rid their schools of Covid mandates through the courts.

The offices of Mr. Abbott and Mr. Paxton did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday night.

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