2021-09-30 20:43:53 Texas Ban on School Mask Mandates May Be Illegal, Justice Dept. Says

Texas Ban on School Mask Mandates May Be Illegal, Justice Dept. Says

On Wednesday, the Justice Department expressed its support for the families of disabled children in Texas who are suing to overturn Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in the state’s schools.

On Wednesday, the department filed a formal statement with the federal district court in Austin, which is hearing one of the lawsuits, claiming that the ban violates the rights of students with disabilities by preventing them from safely attending public schools in person, “even if their local school districts offered them the option of virtual learning.”

The move indicates the federal government’s willingness to intervene in states where governors and other policymakers have opposed mask mandates, using federal anti-discrimination laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Justice Department has frequently used similar statements of interest to intervene in civil rights cases.

“To be honest, I’m overjoyed,” said Juliana Longoria, 38, of San Antonio. Juliana Ramirez, 8, is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in August by the advocacy group Disability Rights Texas against the ban. Ms. Longoria stated, “It gives me a lot more hope that the federal government is serious about protecting our children.”

Suits challenging Mr. Abbott’s ban have also been filed in Texas state courts, with some initial success, but the State Supreme Court has repeatedly sided with the governor, ruling that he had the authority to impose the ban. The federal case in which the Justice Department intervened on Wednesday is set to go to trial next week.

The governor’s office, as well as the Texas Education Agency and the office of state Attorney General Ken Paxton, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Paxton has defended the ban in state court, claiming that Texas law grants the governor broad authority to guide the state through emergencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the Justice Department stated in a statement that civil rights protections provided by federal anti-discrimination laws applied “even during emergencies.”

According to Dustin Rynders, a lawyer for Disability Rights Texas, the department’s position sent a message to schools throughout Texas and beyond that they had an obligation to accommodate people with disabilities, including through the use of masks.

“A state prohibiting ramps to enter the school would be discrimination,” Mr. Rynders said. “And for many of our clients, people wearing masks to protect our clients’ health are required for our clients to be able to enter the school safely.”

The Current Status of Vaccine Mandates in the United States

The Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-coronavirus BioNTech’s vaccine for people aged 16 and up on August 23, paving the way for mandates in both the public and private sectors.

Such mandates are legally permissible and have been upheld in court.
Universities and colleges
Over 400 colleges and universities require students to be immunized against Covid-19. Almost all of them are in states that supported Vice President Biden.
Schools. California was the first state to mandate vaccines for all educators in public and private schools. A vaccine mandate for teachers and staff has also been proposed in New York City, but it has yet to take effect due to legal challenges. On September 27, a federal appeals panel overturned a decision that had temporarily halted the mandate. it. Vaccinations are required for students aged 12 and up who attend class in person.
Hospitals and medical facilities Employees at many hospitals and major health systems are being required to get vaccinated. Mandatory vaccinations for health-care workers in California and New York appear to have compelled thousands of holdouts to comply.
The city of New York. Indoor dining, gyms, performances, and other indoor situations require workers and customers to show proof of vaccination. Employees of the city’s schools and hospitals must also be immunized.
On a federal level. President Biden announced a vaccine mandate for the vast majority of federal employees on September 9. Employees of the executive branch, including the White House and all federal agencies, as well as members of the armed forces, will be subject to this mandate.
In the business world.
Mr. Biden has mandated that all companies with more than 100 employees require vaccination or weekly testing, which has aided in the implementation of new corporate vaccination policies. Some businesses, such as United Airlines and Tyson Foods, had mandates in place prior to Mr. Biden’s announcement.

Juliana Graves, 7, has not returned to school in Sugar Land this year because masks are not required, according to her mother, Ricki Graves. Requests for comment were not immediately returned by the Lamar Consolidated Independent School District.

Juliana has had a heart transplant, and her mother claims that the medication she is taking to prevent rejection suppresses her immune system. As a result, Ms. Graves said, Juliana has been hospitalized more than a dozen times for respiratory infections as simple as the common cold, and she is concerned that Covid-19 will kill her daughter.

Juliana has been receiving four hours of instruction from a teacher through homebound school services instead of going to school, according to Ms. Graves. Her daughter, she claims, is repeating first grade and may be falling even further behind.

“She is missing all of her social interaction because she is unable to go to school in person and interact with her teachers, have recess, and go to lunch,” Ms. Graves explained. “It’s difficult for her.”

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Texas Ban on School Mask Mandates May Be Illegal, Justice Dept. Says