ORLANDO, Fla. — The U.S. Department of Education is investigating Florida’s ban on mask mandates in schools as a potential violation of civil rights for disabled students.
In a letter sent to Florida Department of Education Secretary Richard Corcoran Friday, USDOE Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne Goldberg explains that the ban may be in violation of a policy that requires school districts to consider the needs of students with disabilities.
Goldberg argues the state policy forcing school districts to allow parents to opt their children out of mask mandates creates a heightened risk of a severe COVID-19 infection for students with disabilities, preventing them from safely returning to in-person learning, which would violate federal law.
The letter cites an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations among school-aged children as one of the reasons for the investigation.
The Florida Department of Education will have a week to provide data and other information for the investigation, according to the letter.
The letter goes on to offer Corcoran an opportunity to resolve the matter before the investigation is complete through an agreement.
An appeals court ruled in favor of Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration Friday, allowing the ban to be reinstated after another Judge made a ruling to stop enforcement of the ban.
DeSantis has argued that districts violate parents’ rights to make decisions about their children’s health by mandating mask wearing in schools without allowing parents to opt-out
In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people wear masks indoors at schools, regardless of vaccination status, citing rising infection numbers. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also recommended that all children aged 2 and older wear masks in schools.
Read the full letter from the U.S. Department of Education below: