New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
State mask bans face federal civil rights inquiries
The Education Department on Monday opened civil rights investigations into five Republican-led states that have banned or limited mask requirements in schools, saying the policies could amount to discrimination against students with disabilities or health conditions.
The department’s Office for Civil Rights announced the investigations in letters to education chiefs in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. Those states have issued varying prohibitions on mask requirements, which the office says could prevent some students from safely attending school.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona accused the states of “putting politics over the health and education of the students they took an oath to serve.”
“The department will fight to protect every student’s right to access in-person learning safely,” Cardona said in a statement.
It marks a sharp escalation in the Biden administration’s battle with Republican states that say mask-wearing should be a personal choice. President Joe Biden last week asked Cardona to explore possible legal action, prompting the department to examine whether the policies could amount to civil rights violations.