Disability rights group sues Texas governor over ban on school mask mandates

Disability rights group sues Texas governor over ban on school mask mandates
© getty: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R)

A disability rights group has sued Texas Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottTexas House to launch investigation into school library books Vicente Gonzalez to run in different Texas district after Abbott signs new map Abbott signs sports bill targeting transgender students in Texas MORE (R) over his ban on mask mandates in state schools, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Advocacy group Disability Rights Texas (DRT) in a lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges that Abbott’s executive order on mask mandates violates the federal discrimination law, which prohibits the exclusion of students with disabilities in public schools. 

DRT is representing students under the age of 12 who have “disabilities or underlying conditions” that can lead to more serious cases of COVID-19, according to the Morning News. 

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DRT attorneys argue that prohibiting mask mandates in schools will make it harder for students with disabilities to return for in-school learning. 

“The ban on mask mandates is putting children with disabilities at significant risk and is discriminatory,” DRT attorney Kym Rogers told the Morning News.  “We will do everything in our power to keep the Governor and TEA [Texas Education Agency] from pushing these children out of schools or endangering their lives.”

The lawsuit comes amid Abbott announcing on Tuesday that he has tested positive for the virus, even though he’s been fully vaccinated. COVID-19 cases have surged across the nation due to the highly contagious delta variant. 

School districts in GOP-governed states have set requirements for mask mandates in their schools, defying orders from their state government. 

Stephanie Paresky, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, told the Morning News that “its a risk” to send her 8-year-old son, who has multiple disabilities, to school under these conditions, adding that she doesn't want him to miss out. 

“It’s definitely a risk sending him to school, but we want to give him an education that everyone else is receiving,” Paresky said. “We don’t want him to have lesser just because he’s at-risk.”

Abbott's office said in a statement to The Hill that the governor “cares deeply about the health and safety of disabled students, as he does for all Texas students." 

"Since his accident that left him paralyzed, the Governor has worked throughout his career to protect the rights of all those with disabilities in Texas.”

TEA had no comment. 

"Students with disabilities need in-person schooling more than other student groups, but they must be able to receive instruction and services safely," DRT said in a statement.

Updated 5:26 p.m.