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11 Sep, 2021 06:24

CIVIL RIGHTS arm of US Department of Education launches investigation into Florida governor’s ban on obligatory masks in schools

CIVIL RIGHTS arm of US Department of Education launches investigation into Florida governor’s ban on obligatory masks in schools

Just as a Florida appeals court reinstated Governor Ron DeSantis’s ban on school mask mandates, the Department of Education has announced a probe into the opt-out policy, claiming it may hurt disabled students.

US President Joe Biden’s administration seemingly did not waste time in responding to the Republican governor’s recent victory in the ongoing legal battle against mask mandates, with federal education officials announcing an inquiry into the state’s policy that allows parents to decide whether their children wear masks at school or not.

In a letter on Friday, the acting assistant secretary for civil rights, Suzanne Goldberg, said the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) would look into the parental opt-out policy to determine whether it infringes on the rights of students with disabilities.

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The OCR said it is “concerned” that the policy “may be preventing schools in Florida from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”

The investigation into Florida’s compliance with the disability protection legislation would be carried out by the OCR Atlanta office, Goldberg said.

Responding to the news, DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, said that the governor is ready for a fight against what she called “the federal government overreach.”

“Bring it,” she tweeted.

DeSantis has emerged as a fervent opponent of Covid-19 restrictions, such as mask mandates and lockdowns, since the start of the pandemic, insisting that parents and children should have a choice whether to mask up or not. Last month, he warned that school districts that violate his no-mandates rule could face fines for enforcing them. So far, two Florida counties out of about a dozen that imposed mask mandates have been penalized. The Florida Department of Education last month announced it would withhold funding monthly salaries earmarked for board members in Alachua and Broward for “violating parental rights.”

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