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South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. Photo: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday filed a lawsuit challenging South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) over his ban on school mask mandates.

State of play: The ACLU is representing several disability rights groups and parents who argue the ban violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and "illegally forces parents of children with underlying conditions to choose between their child’s education and their child’s health and safety."

  • The parents who filed the suit have children with conditions such as asthma and weakened immune systems, NPR reports.

What they're saying: "This is a disability rights issue," the ACLU said.

  • "Under federal disability rights laws, public schools cannot exclude, deny access, or segregate students with disabilities from a public school education," the organization added. "Banning mask mandates during a global pandemic does just that."
  • "Schools are obligated to give [all] students an equal opportunity to benefit from public education."
  • "Refusing to follow public health guidelines disproportionately endangers students with health conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID."

The other side: "While we don't comment on specific litigation, the only truly inclusive option is to allow every parent to decide whether their child will wear a mask in school. That's exactly what the General Assembly's budget proviso does in South Carolina," Brian Symmes, a spokesperson for McMaster, told NPR.

  • McMaster called the lawsuit "totally inaccurate," per AP.

Between the lines: President Biden last week directed the Education Department to use its civil rights office to discourage states from banning mask mandates in schools.

  • The Education Department could potentially start investigations if state policies are suspected to be violating students' civil rights by prohibiting masks, per the New York Times.

Go deeper

Civil rights groups sue Oklahoma over law banning critical race theory

The Oklahoma state Capitol in Oklahoma City. Photo: Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A group of civil rights organizations is suing Oklahoma over a law that restricts discussion of race and gender in public schools.

Why it matters: The law is one of several Republican-led attempts to ban critical race theory (CRT), a concept that links racial discrimination to the nation's foundations and legal system.

Harris breaks tie to confirm Biden's Education Department civil rights chief

Catherine Lhamon, then-chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, at a meeting in 2018. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

The Senate voted 51-50 on Wednesday to confirm Catherine Lhamon to lead the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, with Vice President Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.

Why it matters: Lhamon, who led the same office under former President Obama, has faced criticism from Republicans who challenge her views on transgender students' rights and regulations on sexual misconduct in schools.

Hawaii invites fully vaccinated travelers to return from Nov. 1

Hawaii Gov. David Ige. Photo: Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) announced plans Wednesday to soon welcome back nonresidents to the island state who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for nonessential travel.

Why it matters: Hawaii's tourist-dependent labor market suffered one of the worst blows in the U.S. last year and the state's climb out of its pandemic-sized hole is moving slowly, Axios' Courtenay Brown notes.