US Education Department opens investigation into Texas' ban on school mask mandates

Washington The US Education Department’s civil rights enforcement arm is opening an investigation to determine whether Texasprohibición de mandatos de máscaras escolares is preventing school districts fromconsidering or meeting the needs of students with disabilities.

The Department’s Office for Civil Rights sent a letter to Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath on Tuesday detailing howOCR is concerned that Texas’s restriction on schools and school districts from putting masking requirements in place may be preventing schools in Texas from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate based on disability and from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Tuesday’s letter notes that opening this kind of investigationin no way implies that OCR has decided whether there has been a violation of a law OCR enforces” y eso “during the investigation, OCR is a neutral factfinder, collecting and analyzing relevant evidence from TEA and other sources as appropriate prior to reaching a determination in this matter.
    The investigation brings a new layer of scrutiny to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on school mask mandates, which a number of school districts are challenging. Abbott, un republicano, signed the order in May and has defended it despite guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending masks for everyone in schools regardless of vaccination status.
      In a memo released on Friday, the Texas Education Agency further underscored that, per the governor’s executive order, “school systems cannot require students or staff to wear a mask.
        School systems must allow individuals to wear a mask if they choose to do so,” the memo adds. The education agency did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
        The Education Department announced last month that it had sent letters to chief state school officials in five states — Iowa, Oklahoma, Carolina del Sur, Tennessee and Utahnotifying them of new directed investigations into whether their state mask restrictions prevented students with disabilities fromsafely returning to in-person education, in violation of Federal law.
            En el momento, the Office for Civil Rights said it had not opened investigations in states like Texas and Floridabecause those statesbans on universal indoor masking are not currently being enforced as a result of court orders or other state actions,” the agency noted in its August 30 lanzamiento, agregando eso “the Department will continue to closely monitor those states and is prepared to take action if state leaders prevent local schools or districts from implementing universal indoor masking in schools or if the current court decisions were to be reversed.
            The department has since launched an investigation in Florida as well.

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