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Biden administration opens civil rights probe in five GOP-led states on ban of school mask mandates

The agency is investigating Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina,Tennessee and Utah.

Updated: August 30, 2021 - 4:41pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The Biden administration on Monday reportedly opened civil rights investigations into five GOP-led states for policies banning school districts from requiring COVID-19 masks.

Officials in the five states – Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina,Tennessee and Utah – were informed about the probe in a letter from the Education Department, according to The Washington Post.

Each of the states bars local school districts from mandating masks, intended to try to stop the spread of the reemerging virus.

The letter allege the states may be preventing districts from meeting the needs of students with disabilities who are at heightened risk for severe illness should they contract the novel coronavirus.

President Biden vowed earlier this month that the Education Department would use its authority to try to stop states from interfering with school districts that want to require masks – with school reopening for fall classes, the newspaper also reports.

The Republican governors, along with supporters such as some parents, argue that masking should be a personal choice for families to make. 

"It’s simply unacceptable that state leaders are putting politics over the health and education of the students they took an oath to serve," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Monday. "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."

The department did not open investigations in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida and Texas, all of which have tried to ban these mandates as well, because the mandates there are not currently being enforced as a result of court orders or other state actions, said the agency, according to The Post

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