The Biden administration launched an investigation of the Texas ban on mask mandates in public schools, which will be handled by the state’s Department of Education. The investigation will focus on the Texas Education Agency, which handles education matters in the Lone Star State.
As the Dallas Morning News reported, the federal investigation adds to the growing list of issues facing Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, whose executive order is being challenged by school districts and advocacy groups. One such advocacy group, Disability Rights Texas, sued Texas over the mask mandate ban in federal court.
In a letter written by Department of Education’s acting assistant secretary for civil rights, Suzanne B. Goldberg, the federal government’s investigation centers on whether the mask mandate ban “prohibits school districts and individual schools from requiring the use of face masks to reduce the risk to students and others of contracting COVID-19.”
Texas is not the only state facing federal investigation over banning a mask mandate in schools. Biden’s administration is already investigating Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah on mask mandate bans.
Abbott’s office defended itself and pointed out that his executive order gives leeway for people to choose whether to wear a mask, or not to. His office also reminded the media that Abbott is a disabled person.
The Texas State Teachers Association, a teachers’ union, celebrated the federal investigation and urged Abbott to rescind his executive order. The union, combined with other teachers’ unions, often criticized Abbott over his school reopening plans and similar pandemic policies, applauded the federal investigation.
The lawsuit was no surprise to those keeping track of the Biden administration’s priorities, especially after Biden directed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to encourage states to follow federal public health guidelines (i.e. mask mandates).