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Texas Education Agency Ban On School Mask Mandates Sparks Federal Investigation

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) — The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is under investigation over its recent decision banning mask requirements in schools.

In a 4-page letter to the TEA, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights says it has not yet determined if the agency is in violation of any law and is leaving that to the investigation.

To date, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed more than a dozen lawsuits against school districts for mandating masks on school campuses. That is where the Office of Civil Rights takes issue. The federal investigation will gather evidence to determine if Texas' ban on mask mandates for public school violates federal laws.

Specifically, the letter says the ban, "… may be preventing schools in Texas from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate based on disability … and from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities." It is those students are far more susceptible to COVID-19.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, both protect students' right to an education in — what would be considered — the regular educational environment.

In August 2021 President Joe Biden spoke on the issue. He said, "As I've said before, if you aren't going to fight COVID-19, at least get out of the way of everyone else who's trying. You know, we're not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children."

The Office of Civil Rights will contact TEA officials no later than next Tuesday to request all the information needed to conduct their investigation.

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