The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has opened investigations into five states that have bans on indoor mask mandates, according to a Monday press release.
The OCR is investigating Iowa, South Carolina, Utah, Oklahoma, and Tennessee to determine whether their mask mandate prohibitions comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a federal law that protects students with disabilities from discrimination.
The OCR will also examine whether the bans violate Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prevents public entities from discriminating against people with disabilities.
Breaking News: @EDcivilrights has opened investigations in five states on whether their prohibitions on universal indoor masking discriminate against students with disabilities at heightened risk for severe #COVID19 illness. https://t.co/0vINFxwOfR [🧵 1/5]
— U.S. Department of Education (@usedgov) August 30, 2021
“It’s simply unacceptable that state leaders are putting politics over the health and education of the students they took an oath to serve,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona stated. “The Department will fight to protect every student’s right to access in-person learning safely and the rights of local educators to put in place policies that allow all students to return to the classroom full-time in-person safely this fall.”
Florida, Texas, Arkansas, and Arizona also have bans on mask mandates. However, the OCR has not opened investigations into those states because the bans are not being enforced due to court orders or other state actions, according to the press release.