The US Department of Education announced Friday that it is opening an investigation with the Florida Department of Education for potential violation of the rights of students with disabilities by preventing school districts from requiring masks.
The department’s Civil Rights Office is leading the investigation, a spokesperson said in a statement.
The spokesperson said Florida “may prevent school districts across the state from considering or meeting the needs of students with disabilities” due to the state’s hardline mask policy, which requires school districts to allow parents or legal guardians to remove their child from Covid Mask Warrants.
DeSantis issued an executive order banning mask warrants in schools last July and threatened consequences for districts that defy the order. In August, the Florida Board of Education voted to sanction public school districts in Alachua and Broward counties for imposing mask warrants.
In a letter to Richard Corcoran, the commissioner of the Florida Department of Education, the federal agency said the investigation will focus on “whether, in light of this policy, students with disabilities who are at increased risk of serious illness of COVID-19 are prevented from safely returning to in-person education, in violation of federal law. “
The letter cited national data showing that children with certain underlying medical conditions, including those with certain disabilities, are at a higher risk than other children of developing serious illness from Covid.
Florida continued to see an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. August was Florida’s deadliest month since the pandemic began last year, according to Covid-19 data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pediatric hospitalizations have also increased as the delta variant appears to affect children more than previous versions of the coronavirus.