Feds Launch Investigation Into Florida's Student Mask Mandate Rules
The U.S. Education Department announced Friday that it is investigating Florida over its rules that block local schools districts from enacting student mask mandates.
The Biden administration on Friday notified Florida education officials that it has begun an investigation into the state’s rules that block local school districts from requiring students to wear masks without a parental opt-out.
In a letter to Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Suzanne Goldberg, acting assistant secretary for civil rights for the U.S. Department of Education, wrote that federal officials were concerned that restrictions on masks could keep schools from complying with federal laws that protect disabled students from discrimination.
Goldberg wrote that officials are “concerned that Florida’s policy requiring public schools and school districts to allow parents to opt their children out of mask mandates may be preventing schools in Florida from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate based on disability and from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”
The Biden administration could issue sanctions if it finds violations.
In August, similar investigations were launched in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. At the time, federal officials said Florida was omitted while a lawsuit challenging the rule was working its way through the courts.
The challenge comes from several districts that have implemented policies that allow students to opt out of masks only for medical reasons in defiance of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order, which gives parents the rights to decide whether their children wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
A circuit judge ruled a state rule to enforce the order was unconstitutional and local mandates could take place, but an automatic stay remains in place after a ruling Friday by an appeals courts.