The Biden administration’s Education Department announced an investigation into the Texas Education Agency on Tuesday over its ban on mask mandates for students and staff in schools.
The department’s Office for Civil Rights will investigate whether Texas’ ban on mask requirements violates the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits schools from discriminating based on disabilities, according to a letter from Suzanne Goldberg, acting assistant secretary for civil rights.
“[The] investigation will focus on whether, in light of this policy, students with disabilities who are at heightened risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are prevented from safely returning to in-person education, in violation of Federal law,” Goldberg wrote to Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath.
The United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is investigating the Texas Education Agency (@teainfo) because of its ban on mask mandates issued by school districts and schools. The full letter sent to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath is below… @FOX4 pic.twitter.com/imoHkyGzwx
— David Sentendrey (@DavidSFOX4) September 22, 2021
The Texas Education Agency updated its public health guidance on Friday to clarify that “school systems cannot require students or staff to wear a mask.”
When the probes into those states were announced in August, the OCR said it would also be monitoring other states that have moved to restrict mask mandates, including Arizona, Arkansas and Florida.
The department said it was not launching investigations into those states since their bans weren’t being enforced due to court orders or state actions.
“We are going to investigate and we will see where that goes,” U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said. “But the message is out there that we will not allow for states to punish leaders who are trying to protect children.”
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