The Justice Department filed a new statement of interest in a lawsuit filed by the advocacy group Disability Rights Texas. The lawsuit claims that Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates risks the lives of children who are at a heightened risk of catching COVID-19 and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
The lawsuit was filed in late August by Disability Rights Texas, an advocacy group, on behalf of several Texan families against Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath. It claims that the executive order is “putting students with disabilities at significant risk, is discriminatory, and violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act.”
The DOJ argues that the ADA guarantees students with disabilities “a full and equal opportunity to do the same and to learn alongside their nondisabled peers, with all the benefits that accompany in-person learning” and a ban on masks in schools infringes on those rights.
“Other parents of children at heightened COVID-19 risk—such as parents who cannot be at home during the day—may have no choice but to send their children to school each day, knowing that their children’s health, and even their lives, may be at risk because those in close contact with their children may not be wearing masks and there is nothing the school can do about it,” the DOJ said in a statement. “The serious adverse consequences on students with certain disabilities is readily foreseeable. Some parents of children at heightened COVID-19 risk will likely keep their children at home—even though the children could safely attend school if mask protocols could be put in place.”