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20 Attorneys General sign letter asking HHS Secretary to end Head Start mandates

The Head Start program
The Head Start program(KFYR-TV)
Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 4:45 PM CST
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AUSTIN, Texas (KCBD) - Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton joined 19 other states’ AG offices in a letter requesting the Health and Human Services Secretary voluntarily end COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates for federally funded pre-K programs.

On December 30, 2021, a comment letter was sent to the Office of Head Start Director Dr. Bernadine Futrell, signed by Attorneys General in Kentucky, Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, and Texas.

The full letter can be read here.

According to the letter, the AG Offices are trying to “reiterate that the Secretary of Health and Human Services lacks statutory authority under 42 U.S.C. § 9836a to impose” mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates for children and adults in the federal Head Start program.

The program subsidizes pre-K education for about 1 million children in low-income families across the country.

Louisiana and Texas have already filed suits challenging the “Interim Final Rule” from the Office of Health and Human Services requiring all Head Start staff and volunteers be fully vaccinated by January 31. The rule also requires masks for all children over two years-old.

A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction on December 31, saying the federal government cannot impose mask or vaccine mandates for Head Start staff or students in Texas until the court takes further action or the matter goes to trial.

Lubbock ISD and the State of Texas filed a lawsuit challenging the rule from HHS on December 10, hoping for a nationwide injunction, but the recent injunction order from U.S. District Court Judge James Wesley Hendrix only prevents the federal government from enforcing these rules in the State of Texas.

The lawsuit calls the requirements for pre-K programs under the Office of Head Start unconstitutional. LISD claims, with testimony from Texas Tech and other school districts including Friona, Morton, and Muleshoe, that masking is distracting for students that young, and makes it more difficult for them to learn when they can’t see their teachers’ faces.

LISD Superintendent Kathy Rollo testified efforts by staff to keep masks on toddlers takes time away from childhood education and compels parents to choose between allowing staff to force masks on their children in order to participate, or withdraw their children from the program completely.

LISD has presented sworn statements showing some parents will pull their kids out of the program, and employees will quit.

Health and Human Services responded to the lawsuit claiming the orders’ public health benefits outweigh the district’s concerns, and these orders in Head Start programs will protect families and save lives.

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