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14 children with disabilities sue Gov. Greg Abbott, TEA due to mask mandate ban

The federal lawsuit aims to stop GA-38 and TEA's COVID-19 guidelines, which plaintiffs say exclude students with disabilities from critical learning environments.

AUSTIN, Texas — Parents have filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott on behalf of 14 disabled students who they say can not participate in critical, in-person learning due to Executive Order GA-38 issued by the governor in July.  

Three Central Texas students, one in Leander ISD, one in Hays CISD and another in Round Rock ISD, are included in the lawsuit. The other 11 are from other areas of Texas, including San Antonio, Castroville, Killeen, Galveston, Katy, Richardson, Hidalgo and Fort Bend.

Each of the students fall under the CDC's high-risk population criteria due to disabilities or underlying medical conditions. Their ages range from seven to 11 years old, making none of them eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, as they're only available for people ages 12 and up.

The lawsuit claims the executive order violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. 

Section 75 of the lawsuit states, "Excluding children from the public school classroom because of a disability is precisely the type of discrimination and segregation that the ADA and its amendments aim to prevent and specifically prohibit."

Listed as defendants are Gov. Abbott, the Texas Education Agency and TEA Commissioner Mike Morath. The Texas Education Agency stated in its policy earlier this month that schools in the state are not able to mandate masks due to the governor's order and did not require schools to inform parents of a positive COVID-19 case or conduct contact tracing. 

Each of the defendants are being held responsible for the children not being able to return to in-person classes without serious risk to their health and safety. 

The lawsuit argues the executive order also violates federal law. 

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 put in place by the U.S. Congress poured billions of dollars in emergency relief funding into school districts. The funds are specifically earmarked to be used to create health protocols that align with CDC guidance as much as possible. The latest CDC guidance for schools came out in early August, and they advise universal indoor masking. 

The stated goal of the lawsuit is to put a stop to GA-38 and the TEA's Public Health Guidance, to allow local authorities to determine the best way to follow federal law and keep their students safe.

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