Beneath Part 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, college students are entitled to a free, acceptable public training, generally known as FAPE, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination primarily based on race, coloration and nationwide origin.

The division may provoke its personal investigations into districts, if state insurance policies and actions rise to potential violations of scholars’ civil rights. It may additionally overview complaints from mother and father and advocates who make the case that prohibiting masks mandates is, in impact, a civil rights violation as a result of it may deny a scholar their proper to an training by placing them in hurt’s approach in class. Such investigations may lead to decision agreements, as many investigations by the workplace usually do, and in essentially the most excessive instances lead to revocation of federal funding.

Dr. Cardona mentioned conversations with mother and father of youngsters with autism, respiratory sickness or weak immune techniques, “who depend on faculty for socialization and the essential constructing blocks of studying,” had contributed to his sense of urgency.

“I’ve heard these mother and father, saying ‘Miguel, due to these insurance policies, my youngster can’t entry their faculty, I’d be placing them in hurt’s approach,’” Dr. Cardona mentioned. “And to me, that goes in opposition to a free acceptable public training. That goes in opposition to of the elemental beliefs of educators throughout the nation to guard their college students and supply a properly rounded training.”

The administration can even ship letters to 6 states — Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah — admonishing governors’ efforts to ban common masking in faculties.

Final week, Dr. Cardona despatched similar letters to the governors of Texas and Florida, reminding them that districts had each the funding and the discretion to implement security measures that the C.D.C. beneficial for faculties. The secretary additionally made clear that he supported district leaders who defied the governors’ orders.

In his letter to Texas, Mr. Cardona warned that the state was jeopardizing its federal reduction funding. The state’s lawyer basic, Ken Paxton, doubled down in response, suggesting on Twitter that he would take the state’s ban on faculty masks mandates to the Supreme Courtroom.