Education Department Launches Civil Rights Investigations Over Bans on Mask Mandates

By  - 
Three female college students wearing face masks using technology working in computer lab.

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.

“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.