Mask wars continue in Florida, with the federal government applying even more pressure to the state over its ongoing desire to squelch in-school masking requirements.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights notified the Florida Department of Education an investigation had begun into the state’s ban on mask mandates.
The Office for Civil Rights position is that a failure to enforce masking may discriminate against disabled students, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. However, the letter stresses the department is just a “neutral fact finder” in the case.
“In this investigation, particular attention will be given to whether the Florida Department of Education may be preventing schools from making individualized assessments about mask use so that students with disabilities can attend school and participate in school activities in person, consistent with their right to receive a free appropriate public education and to be free from discrimination based on their disability,” reads the letter from Suzanne B. Goldberg, the Acting Secretary of Civil Rights, to Commissioner Richard Corcoran.
The letter came the same day a judge ruled in favor of the ban on mask mandates. The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled the 11th Circuit Court erred in lifting a stay on its ruling overturning the ban and suggested the parents who initiated the suit may lack standing.
DeSantis, who predicted this case and other hot-button issues would break the state’s way on appeal, gloated on Twitter.
“No surprise here – the 1st DCA has restored the right of parents to make the best decisions for their children. I will continue to fight for parents’ rights,” he wrote.
The back and forth has continued for days, with President Joe Biden alluding to DeSantis during a speech at the White House expanding vaccine mandates.
“School officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their Governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their jobs,” Biden said Thursday, regarding moves like Florida’s to block districts from imposing mask mandates. “Talk about bullying in schools. If these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my powers as President to get them out of the way.”
In remarks Friday, DeSantis said Biden was having a “hissy fit” as he pledged to fight the President’s “unconstitutional edicts.”
Florida has vowed to defund school districts in an amount equal to school board members’ salaries in wayward districts, but the U.S. Department of Education has said it will backfill those funds.