Head Start Policy and Regulations

Litigation Update: COVID-19 Vaccine and Mask Requirements

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has received notice that as of Sept. 21, 2022, following a decision by the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, implementation and enforcement of Vaccine and Mask Requirements to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs, 86 Fed. Reg. 68052 (Nov. 30, 2021) (the “Interim Final Rule” or “IFC”), is permanently enjoined in the following 24 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Head Start, Early Head Start, and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grant recipients in those 24 states are not required to comply with the IFC.

As of Dec. 31, 2021, following a decision by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, implementation and enforcement of the IFC is preliminarily enjoined in Texas.

As of March 4, 2022, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan denied the motion of the plaintiffs in Livingston, et al. v. Becerra, et al., 22-cv-10127 (E.D. Mich.) for a preliminary injunction on the implementation and enforcement of the vaccine provision of the IFC. Plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit. The Sixth Circuit declined to stay the implementation of the IFC pending appeal.

On Sept. 16, 2022, the United State District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed the case in Etherton v. Biden, et al., 22-cv-00195 (E.D. Va.) challenging the IFC.

The IFC remains in effect in all other states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.

The Office of Head Start (OHS) has developed responses around two key issues for grant recipients in the 25 states under injunction.

  • Q: Do the injunctions prohibit a program in an impacted state from moving forward with their own requirements and policies for vaccination and masking?
    A: No. Programs in states where the IFC has been preliminarily enjoined are permitted to develop and enforce their own policies, as necessary to support the health and safety of the children in their care. The preliminary injunctions apply only to the federal government's implementation and enforcement of the IFC; they do not prohibit programs from developing and implementing their own policies. Further, these programs should seek guidance from their own legal counsel about the policies they set within the context of their individual state laws.
  • Q: Are tribes located in an impacted state covered by the injunctions?
    A: Yes, the injunctions apply to tribes located within those 25 states covered by the injunctions.

Head Start programs have been working tirelessly to support the children and families of their community, and to provide the in-person services that make a difference in each child's life. Vaccination and masking are essential components necessary to returning to full in-person comprehensive Head Start services — and to keep workers, their families, and communities safe. OHS will continue to support programs in developing policies and procedures, and in using American Rescue Plan funds to meet the needs of their community, as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic together.

Enjoined States by Region

Please note these regional designations may include American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) programs.

Region Permanently Enjoined States Preliminarily Enjoined States
I    
II    
III WV  
IV AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, SC, TN  
V IN, OH  
VI AK, LA, OK TX
VII IA, KS, MO, NE  
VIII MT, ND, SD, UT, WY  
IX AZ  
X AK