Education Department probing five states over mask mandate bans

Driving the news: In letters to education chiefs in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennesse and Utah, the department’s Office for Civil Rights said the bans could discriminate against students with disabilities or underlying medical conditions.

The letter marks an escalation in the Biden administration’s standoff with Republican states that say wearing masks should be a personal decision and that parents should choose for their children.

Details: The five states have prohibited schools from requiring masks for students and staff, contradicting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has advised universal mask-wearing in classrooms.

The investigation will focus on whether the policies “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,” Suzanne Goldberg, the acting assistant secretary for civil rights, wrote in the letters.