The Department of Education is conducting an investigation into Texas’ ban on mask mandates in schools. Republican Governor Greg Abbott passed the legislation earlier this year in an attempt to provide parents with the choice of masking their children for over 5 hours a day in the classroom. However, backlash soon followed as schools suggested students who did not mask would spread COVID-19.
The state’s policy reads, “School systems cannot require students or staff to wear a mask.” Although, in securing the right of choice, “School systems must allow individuals to wear a mask if they choose to do so.”
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is leading the investigation on the basis that the mask mandate ban prevents “an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”
Districts across Texas promptly defied Governor Abbott’s ban by enforcing mask mandates despite threats of cutting state funding, because they received financial support from the Biden administration. One school found a loophole to the ban by including masks in its dress code policy.
In August, the mask mandate ban was taken to the Texas Supreme Court, which sided with Governor Abbott. The high court issued a stay order in the legal battle in Dallas and Bexar counties after a lower court ruled last week in favor of local officials. “Local mask mandates are illegal under GA-38,” the Office of the Texas Attorney General wrote, adding, “Let this ruling serve as a reminder to all ISDs and Local officials that the Governor’s order stands.”
Enforcing mask mandates in the classroom has become a point of controversy after the pros and cons of the mitigation effort came into question. For instance, one study found more pathogens (not COVID-19) on children’s masks, including bacteria that cause diphtheria, pneumonia, and meningitis.
In the classroom, children complain about difficulty breathing, wearing glasses with a mask, and communicating with teachers and friends. A viral video shows a young boy removing his mask and a teacher repeatedly forcing it back on his face, despite the child’s distress.
ARTICLE: ANTOINETTE AHO
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: NEWSWEEK
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