On Wednesday, a United States district judge blocked Texas GOP governor Greg Abbott’s mask mandate ban for Texas schools.
On July 29, Abbott issued an executive order stating, “No governmental entity, including a county, city, school district, and public health authority, and no governmental official may require any person to wear a face covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering.”
In mid-August, Disability Rights Texas filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 14 child plaintiffs against Abbott and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, saying that Abbott’s executive order banning school districts and charter schools from implementing mask mandates was “putting students with disabilities at significant risk, is discriminatory, and violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act.”
In mid-September, President Biden’s Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced it was investigating whether the Texas Education Agency’s policy prohibiting school mask mandates barred students with disabilities from safely returning to in-person classes and violated federal law. Suzanne B. Goldberg, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, noted:
OCR is opening a directed investigation into TEA’s compliance with Section 504 and Title II. Specifically, OCR will examine whether, prohibition on local school districts and schools from requiring the use of masks, TEA may be in light of Texas’s preventing school districts in the state from considering or meeting the individual educational needs of students with disabilities or otherwise enabling discrimination whether TEA may be preventing schools from making individualized assessments about mask use based on disability. In this investigation, particular attention will be given to so that students with disabilities can attend school in person, consistent with their right to receive a free appropriate public education and to violation of Section 504 and Title II discrimination based on their disability.
On Wednesday, United States District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the ban violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The ruling also prohibited Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from suing school districts that require students to wear masks as a safety measure. Paxton already had sued 15 school districts to overturn those local mask mandates,” The Daily Mail pointed out.
“The spread of COVID-19 poses an even greater risk for children with special health needs.” Yeakel stated, “Children with certain underlying conditions who contract COVID-19 are more likely to experience severe acute biological effects and to require admission to a hospital and the hospital’s intensive-care unit.”
“The State Supreme Court