Texas Sues HHS Over Head Start Mask, Vaccine Mandate

On Friday a case was filed in the Northern District of Texas by the State of Texas and the Lubbock Independent School District against Xavier Becerra, in his role as Secretary of the Health and Human Services. Other defendants include the Office of Head Start and the President of the United States. The case is regarding the vaccine and mask requirement that has been implemented on federal contractors and how it applies to the Head Start Program.

On November 30, an interim final rule with comment was filed in the Federal Register under 6 Fed. Reg. 68,052, entitled “Vaccine and Mask Requirements To Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs.” This rule imposed a vaccine mandate that covered the staff, volunteers, and contractors involved with the Head Start Program. It also imposed a mask mandate on all participants in the program that are two years old or older as well as any individual entering a Head Start facility such as parents or caregivers that are dropping off or picking up children.

The plaintiffs argue that the enforcement of this mandate would result in a deviation from the mandate of the program to: “promote the school readiness of low-income children by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development—(1) in a learning environment that supports children’s growth in language, literacy, mathematics, science, social and emotional functioning, creative arts, physical skills, and approaches to learning; and (2) through the provision to low-income children and their families of health, educational, nutritional, social, and other services that are determined, based on family needs assessments, to be necessary.”

The plaintiffs also argue that enforcement of the vaccination would result in so many resignations that the program would have to chose between non compliance and actually shuttering the program.

The plaintiffs seek declaratory relief that the mandate is unlawful as well as injunctive relief enjoining the enforcement of the mandate.