The US Department of Education has warned school officials in five states that it is investigating whether their bans on mask warrants are “prevent[ing] students with disabilities to safely return to in-person teaching.
Officials in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah have been warned by the department’s civil rights office that although the office has not yet determined that there had been a violation, the indoor universal masking ban may prevent schools from meeting their legal obligations regarding the provision of a “equal educational opportunitiesTo students with disabilities at high risk of Covid-19.
The bureau declined to look at Florida, Texas, Arizona and Arkansas, noting that although they have repeatedly passed or considered blanket bans on school mask mandates, their plans to ‘large-scale ban were scuttled by “court orders or other state actions», Explained the letter of the DoE, sent on Monday.
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President Joe Biden said earlier this year that governors must not interfere with the safe return of students to the classroom. “without compromising their health or that of their family or community. “DoE secretary Miguel Cardona lamented in a Monday statement that parents nationwide, especially those with children with disabilities, could be”putting their children at risk and preventing them from accessing face-to-face learning equally.“
The OCR hinted at darker consequences for schools in the five affected states that did not do as they were told, saying a lack of mask warrants in those states “can prevent schools … from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate on the basis of disability and to provide an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19.“
The Biden administration did not specify what might happen to schools that do not impose mandates, with Cardona content to bemoan state leaders “putting politics above the health and education of the students they have sworn to serve. “Wish to”fight to protect the right of every student to access safe in-person learning“, He warned that”possible enforcement actions under applicable law“could be next for schools that refuse to do what they’re told.
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Biden’s attempt to penalize Red States for fighting mask warrants under the guise of “civil rights” will only deepen divisions
It’s not just the Department of Education that has set its sights on mask warrants for every American child. The American Civil Liberties Union has plunged headlong into irony, suing South Carolina last week over its ban on mandatory masks in schools. Insisting that students with disabilities were excluded from the classroom because their peers were not required to wear masks in class, they said “the courts must intervene– although nothing in the anti-mandate law prevents students who want to wear masks from doing so.
The governors on the other side push back. Kevin Stitt, a Republican from Oklahoma, grapples with the state’s Cherokee Nation Council of Education, insisting his call for mask mandates is against state law , although several districts quietly enforce their own mask mandates – with medical and religious exemptions.
South Carolina’s Republican-majority legislature backed the governor by prohibiting school districts that require masks from receiving state funding to implement warrants. Florida Republican Ron DeSantis, one of the most visible opponents of mandatory masking, had his order overturned by the court on Friday, while Texas Gov. Greg Abbott saw his own order challenged by 60 school districts separated and ultimately prevented from taking effect last week.
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