TEXAS — The Texas Education Agency recently updated its public health guidance to state that school districts may not require masks in accordance with Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning such mandates.
The move has sparked an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Specifically, the office is investigating whether the TEA is in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
“I write to inform you that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is opening a directed investigation into whether the Texas Education Agency (TEA) may be preventing school districts in the state from considering or meeting the needs of students with disabilities as a result of Texas’s policy that prohibits school districts and individual schools from requiring the use of face masks to reduce the risk to students and others of contracting COVID-19 in school,” the U.S. Department of Education’s Suzanne Goldberg wrote in a four-page letter to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sued more than a dozen school districts so far for implementing mask mandates in violation of Abbott’s order. Some have been successful in reversing mask policies. In other cases, such as in Round Rock, school districts have seen success challenging the order legally.
As of Wednesday there are 253 pediatric patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Texas.
The Office for Civil Rights is requesting data and other information from the TEA within a week as part of its investigation.