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The investigation led by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, per a report from the Texas Tribune, was launched on Tuesday and comes four days after the Texas Education Agency announced a new update to its public health guidance. In that update, the TEA again said “school systems cannot require students or staff to wear a mask.” It marked a return to previous wording and is the latest result of Governor Greg Abbott’s mask-targeting executive order.
The Tribune report cites a letter to the TEA commissioner as stating that the investigation will keep its aim on determining whether students with disabilities (i.e. the students most at risk amid the pandemic) are being prevented from making a safe return to in-person learning. If so, that would mark a federal law violation.
Complex has reached out to a rep for the U.S. Department of Education and will update this post accordingly.
In August, a federal lawsuit was filed over the same issue by the advocacy agency Disability Rights Texas.
“The ban on mask mandates is putting children with disabilities at significant risk and is discriminatory,” attorney Kym Rogers said when announcing the suit last month. “We will do everything in our power to keep the Governor and TEA from pushing these children out of schools or endangering their lives.”
Texas-based mask aversion previously made headlines this week with word that a Texas couple with a 4-month-old son who is immunocompromised got kicked out of a restaurant for wearing masks. Put another way, they were kicked out of a restaurant for trying to keep their son's safety in mind amid a global pandemic.