The states in question are Utah, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Iowa. All five states are controlled by the Republican Party, and all of them have passed bans that will prevent children from being suffocated by forcing them to wear masks all day at school.
The civil rights investigations were opened on Aug. 30 by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). (Related: NIH director admits school mask mandates not based on science.)
The office sent letters to the top school officers of the five states announcing the Education Department’s decision to open civil rights investigations. The letters allege that the investigations are being conducted to determine whether these states are discriminating against students with disabilities and with underlying health conditions by supposedly denying them safe access to in-person instruction.
According to the OCR, the bans on schools instituting mask mandates “may be preventing schools … from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate based on disability and from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”
The Education Department said its investigations will focus on whether states are complying with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This is the first disability civil rights law to ever be enacted in the United States.
According to this section, entities are forbidden from discriminating against disabled people and not giving them an equal opportunity to receive benefits and services that receive federal funding.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona claimed in a press release that the department has received a lot of complaints from parents of disabled schoolchildren. These parents supposedly believe state bans on mandating masking in schools are “putting their children at risk and preventing them from accessing in-person learning equally.”
“It’s simply unacceptable that state leaders are putting politics over health and education of the students they took an oath to serve,” wrote Cardona in the press release. “The department will fight to protect every student’s right to access in-person learning safely and the rights of local educators to put in place policies that allow all students to return to the classroom full-time in-person safely this fall.”
Four other states currently have bans on school mask mandates – Texas, Florida, Arkansas and Arizona. The OCR said it is not investigating these states because the bans are not being enforced, either due to court orders or some other reason. But the office said it will keep monitoring these states for potential future investigations.
Governors stand firm against federal threats
The civil rights investigations come after Cardona wrote to the governors and superintendents of several of the states earlier this month warning them that they could be subjected to federal inquiries regarding their ban on school mask mandates.
The education secretary received responses from some of the state officials that they would continue to support the rights of parents to choose how their children should be educated.
“Parents know better than the government what’s best for their children,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee in his reply to Cardona.
On Aug. 26, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox sent a letter to Biden calling Cardona’s letter “extremely unhelpful.” He also said the education secretary’s objections were surprising given his earlier enthusiastic approval of Utah’s school plan.
“Utah has been praised for safely keeping schools open last year and for making better masks available to students and teachers this year,” said Cox.
Cox’s office added that the last thing Utah needs is “threats from out-of-touch bureaucrats” in the Education Department.
Brian Symmes, communications director for South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, called the federal government’s attempt to overturn the statewide ban on school mask mandates “another attempt by the Biden administration to force a radical liberal agenda on states and people who disagree with them.”
“Gov. McMaster isn’t going to stand for it because he knows that parents – not federal bureaucrats – know what’s best for their children,” said Symmes. “Under South Carolina law, anybody who wants to wear a mask – in a school setting or elsewhere – is free to do so, but the governor isn’t going to ignore a parent’s fundamental right to make health decisions for their children.”
In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds accused Biden of picking a fight with states to distract from his failed policies.
“President Biden and his team … decided to pick a political fight with a handful of governors to distract from his own failures – Afghanistan, the border, inflation and more,” said Reynolds. “As I’ve said all along, I believe and trust in Iowans to make the best health decisions for themselves and their families … In Iowa, we will continue to support individual liberty over government mandates.”
Learn more about how the Biden administration is attempting to control how states respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by reading the latest articles at JoeBiden.news.