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Education Department Probing 5 States for Ban of Mask Mandates

The Department of Education said it will investigate five Republican-led states that banned mask mandates in schools.

The department’s Office of Civil Rights announced Monday that it sent letters to state-level education leaders in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah saying the mask mandate bans might discriminate against students with disabilities or underlying medical conditions.

The five states have stopped schools from requiring masks for students and staff, which runs counter to the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have universal mask-wearing in classrooms.

Suzanne Goldberg, the department’s acting assistant secretary for civil rights, wrote in the letters that the investigation will focus on whether those states’ policies discriminate against the disabled and deny them the right to a full educational experience.

Leaders in some Republican states argue that wearing masks should be a personal decision and parents should make the choice for their children.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona called it “unacceptable” for state leaders to put politics over health and education and said his department “will fight to protect every student’s right to access in-person learning safely.”

States that are found to have discriminated against students with disabilities could have their federal funding cut off by the Biden administration. Additionally, the administration will monitor similar actions in GOP-led states such as Texas, Florida, Arizona and Arkansas.

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