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Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (left) and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. Photos: Montinique Monroe and Win McNamee via Getty Images

The Education Department is investigating Texas' ban on mask mandates and its possible violation of disability rights.

Why it matters: Texas is one of several states under investigation for mask mandate bans that have impacted schools across the U.S.

  • The Texas Education Agency quietly updated its public health guidance on Friday to note that school districts once again cannot require face coverings.
  • Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) ban was temporarily blocked last month amid a legal challenge. However, some lower courts have made their own rulings, the Texas Tribune reports, creating a patchwork of enforcement and multiplying the legal battles Abbott faces.

What they're saying: The governor's order may be "preventing school districts in the state from considering or meeting the needs of students with disabilities," Suzanne B. Goldberg, the acting assistant secretary for the department's Office for Civil Rights, wrote in a letter to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath.

  • The Office for Civil Rights is "concerned that Texas’s restriction ... may be preventing schools in Texas from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate based on disability and from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19," Goldberg said.
  • "In this investigation, particular attention will be given to whether TEA may be preventing schools from making individualized assessments about mask use so that students with disabilities can attend school and participate in school activities in person, consistent with their right to receive a free appropriate public education and to be free from discrimination based on their disability."

The big picture: Texas experienced a surge in COVID cases and deaths this summer.

Go deeper

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Oct 26, 2021 - Health

FDA panel endorses Pfizer vaccines for 5-to-11-year-olds

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Members of the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine expert panel Tuesday endorsed a two-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5–11. The final vote was 17 members in favor, with one member abstaining.

Why it matters: While not binding, the decision is a long-awaited step toward getting COVID vaccines in the arms of some of the youngest Americans potentially in time to get many fully vaccinated in advance of the holiday season.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot — FDA panel endorses Pfizer vaccines for 5-11 year olds — Moderna says vaccine shows strong immune response in kids
  2. Health: COVID cases, deaths at meat plants were far higher than previously thought — 96% of Tyson Foods employees vaccinated ahead of mandate deadline — U.S. releases updated vaccination, testing rules for foreign travelers
  3. Politics: Louisiana lifts mask mandate except for some schools — Alabama governor orders state agencies to fight federal vaccine mandate — Axios-Ipsos poll: Confidence in Biden COVID recovery tumbles
  4. Education: Benefits of vaccine for children outweigh risks, FDA says — Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Oct 26, 2021 - Health

Alabama governor orders state agencies to fight federal vaccine mandate

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. Photo: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday signed an executive order directing state agencies to not enforce federal coronavirus vaccine mandates, and instead cooperate with the state's attorney general to sue the Biden administration over the requirements.

The big picture: No government entity shall impose any agreement demanding that an employee get vaccinated, the Republican governor's executive order says. It adds that state employees will not be required to present vaccination proof to receive any sort of government service or to enter a government building.