Mark Brnovich warns Secretary of Education about meddling in Arizona school mask ban

In this Nov. 4, 2014, file photo, Arizona then-Republican candidate for Attorney General Mark Brnovich talks to supporters at the Republican election night party in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s Office says it will not tolerate a federal government investigation into Arizona’s school mask policies. That’s according to a letter from Brnovich to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on Aug. 31.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced Monday that they “opened directed investigations in five states exploring whether statewide prohibitions on universal indoor masking discriminate against students with disabilities” by obstructing their ability to attend in-person classes, according to a press release. 

The five states under scrutiny are Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. 

OCR said they are not investigating Florida, Texas, Arkansas, or Arizona at this time due to the lack of enforcement of the states’ bans on indoor mask mandates as a result of pending litigation. However, the press release said that the department will “continue to closely monitor those states and is prepared to take action if state leaders prevent local schools or districts from implementing universal indoor masking or if the current court decisions were to be reversed.”

In his letter, Brnovich demanded that the secretary “retract” his threat, saying that the state would address violations of its constitutional rights in federal court. 

“Our legislators and courts will ensure that our state Constitution is followed, not your radical agenda,” he wrote. 

Cardona’s office said the investigations would determine if the states comply with Sec. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The two laws prohibit disability discrimination in schools and public entities, including public education systems and institutions. 

“The Department has heard from parents from across the country – particularly parents of students with disabilities and with underlying medical conditions – about how state bans on universal indoor masking are putting their children at risk and preventing them from accessing in-person learning equally,” Cardona said in the OCR press release. 

Brnovich stressed that the state of Arizona is well aware of the importance of balancing power between the federal and state governments. 

“It is true that over many generations, this crucial balance has been tested as the federal government has grown beyond its original intent,” Brnovich said. “It has perhaps never been more of an issue than in this first year of the Biden Administration though, where we have seen historic threats and attacks on powers reserved for the states.”  

Such attacks against the Ninth and Tenth Amendments threaten the liberties of every American, Brnovich stated, adding that Arizona would take legal action against any federal attempts at overreach into state affairs. 

“As I have stated previously, my office will not tolerate any effort from the federal government to undermine or interfere with Arizona’s sovereignty,” Brnovich wrote. 

Elizabeth Troutman | The Center Square contributor