Attorneys general (AG) from 24 states have filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration challenging COVID-19 vaccine mandates for early education staff and mask mandates for young children.
Led by Louisiana AG Jeff Landry, the lawsuit (pdf) argues that the mandates involving Head Start, the country’s largest early education program, are unlawful and exceed President Joe Biden’s statutory authority.
Biden’s mandate, issued last month, applies to all preschool programs funded by the federal Head Start program and affects hundreds of thousands of staff, volunteers, and preschool students across the country. It mandates vaccinations for staff, volunteers, and others in contact with students by the end of January and requires masks for all adults and children aged two and above.
The mandate offers no alternative to vaccinations, and for those granted exemptions, funds are not provided for regular testing. It applies to staff regardless of whether they work in person or remotely.
The Department of Health and Human Services provides funding to low-income families of preschool-age children under the federal Head Start program.
The lawsuit argues that the president’s mandate is projected to lead to tens of thousands of Head Start agency staff losing their jobs and will cause programs to close or reduce capacity.
“Like all of his other unlawful attempts to impose medical decisions on Americans, Biden’s overreaching orders to mask two-year-olds and force vaccinate teachers in our underserved communities will cost jobs and impede child development,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a statement on Tuesday. “If enacted, Biden’s authoritarianism will cut funding, programs, and childcare that working families, single mothers, and elderly raising grandchildren rely on desperately.”
The 24 states are seeking to block the Biden administration’s mandate, arguing that it is “arbitrary and capricious” and violates the Congressional Review Act and the Tenth Amendment.
The requirements also violate the Administrative Procedure Act’s Notice-and-Comment Requirement, the Nondelegation Doctrine, the Anti-Commandeering Doctrine, the Spending Clause, and the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act of 1999, the lawsuit argues.
“Our Nation’s children have faced enough setbacks and difficulties during the last two years; they cannot afford another government attack on their development,” Landry said. “My office has had great success in blocking Biden’s mandates on many hard-working Americans, and we will work tirelessly to achieve the same victories for toddlers and teachers.”
The lawsuit was filed by the AGs of Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming, and West Virginia.
“As a natural and foreseeable result, certain providers will close and children from low-income families in affected areas will be denied access to the preschool education that Congress guaranteed them, and children who are denied access to preschool education will miss out on crucial years of development,” it states.
It also cites recommendations from the World Health Organization that “based on the safety and overall interest of the child and the capacity to appropriately use a mask,” “children aged 5 years and under should not be required to wear masks.”
The complaint cites pediatric nurse Anthony Luczak, who says a toddler mask mandate may cause psychological and health problems.
The “reinforcement of wearing masks because of the threat of the pandemic is a reinforcement of fear that directly is triggering a toxic stress in children’s lives,” she said.
It argues that because the federal program does not clearly authorize the mandate, the Biden administration “has acted ‘in excess’ of its constitutional and statutory authority.”
“As a mother, I am very concerned about the latest federal mandates being forced on Head Start staff and students—children as young as two-years old will be required to wear masks and teachers will be forced to receive a vaccination against their will,” Florida AG Ashley Mood said in a statement. “I am fighting to stop this federal overreach, just as I have fought to protect Floridians against the previous unlawful mandates forced on us by the federal government.”
Texas AG Ken Paxton said earlier this month that he will “not allow Texans to be coerced into getting a vaccine because the federal government is giving them an ultimatum to choose between their health or their child’s preschool education.”
“These unconstitutional mandates have no place in our country, and they are not welcomed here in Texas,” he said.
The Epoch Times has contacted the Biden administration for comment.