The White House plans to increase its pressure on Republican states that ban masks in schools by invoking the Department of Education’s civil rights enforcement authority, The New York Times reports. That authority will allow the department to hear the concerns of parents who believe districts not implementing mask mandates could jeopardize their children’s right to an education. Secretary Miguel Cardona said he believes governors in Florida, Texas, and other states could be violating students’ educational rights under the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. If the department follows through on investigations, it could result in resolution agreements or, in some cases, the loss of federal funding.
“I’ve heard those parents, saying ‘Miguel, because of these policies, my child cannot access their school, I would be putting them in harm’s way,’” Cardona told the Times. “And to me, that goes against a free appropriate public education. That goes against of the fundamental beliefs of educators across the country to protect their students and provide a well rounded education.”