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Texas Mask Ban Violates the Americans with Disabilities Act
This week a federal judge has ruled that Texas’s ban on mask mandates in schools violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to court documents filed Wednesday in US District Court for the Western District of Texas.
In part of the judge’s decision, he mirrored the analysis that Doron Dorfman, associate professor of law at Syracuse University College of Law and his co-author Mical Raz, the Charles E. and Dale L. Phelps Professor in Public Policy and Health at University of Rochester wrote in JAMA Health Forum, “Bans on COVID 19 Mask Requirements vs Disability Accommodations,” (Aug. 6, 2021) and in the Washington Post opinion piece “Students with disabilities could sue their schools to require masks” (Aug. 19, 2021).
To schedule an interview with Dorfman, please contact Ellen James Mbuqe, director of media relations at Syracuse University, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-496-0551.
As reflected in the judgment on the case, Dorfman and Raz wrote that mask bans create an undue burden on immunocompromised individuals by making it hard for them to go to school or work.
“While ordinances barring mask mandates are harmful to our community at large, they particularly hurt individuals with certain disabilities such as cancer or various forms of autoimmune diseases who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. Which raises a question: Could disability rights law offer a way to cut through the controversy — establishing a legal right for some students (and teachers) to receive the “accommodation” of being protected by masks in schools? We believe the answer is yes,” Dorfman and Raz write in “Students with disabilities could sue their schools to require masks”
Dorfman and Raz write that mask bans violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. For an immunocompromised person in the workplace or school, not only do they need to be wearing a mask, but they require those around them to be wearing them too in order to stop the spread of COVID.
“We believe that a modification requiring masks in class, to allow immunocompromised students to participate in school programs — particularly in districts that no longer offer remote options — meets the ADA’s definition of a reasonable accommodation. In other contexts, the Supreme Court and the Justice Department have determined that schools have to allow service dogs into the classroom, and that colleges must accommodate students with food allergies, for instance by providing gluten-free food, to pick just two examples. Many accommodations change somewhat the nature of the educational experience for other children in the class; yet that in itself is not enough to render them unreasonable.”
Dorfman recently spoke before the House Committee on Education & Labor on the topic “Protecting Lives and Livelihoods: Vaccine Requirements and Employee Accommodations” which centered on vaccine mandates for employers.
At Syracuse University, Dorfman teaches classes on health law, employment discrimination, and disability law. He has been interviewed in several news outlets on the legal issues of health mandates including MedPage Today, Fortune, Bloomberg Law, Yahoo Finance and USA Today.