Biden Administration Initiates Investigations Of 5 GOP Governors

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The Education Department within the Biden administration has begun civil rights investigations into five states where Republican leaders have forbade local school officials from imposing mandates to wear face masks in schools. The idea guiding these investigations is that the policies against mask mandates could impede the ability of immuno-compromised or otherwise vulnerable children to attend school. The states that are now under investigation by federal authorities include Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. In each of these states, governors helped enact the mandate bans.

Other GOP-led states, like Florida and Texas, where policies against mask mandates in schools have been put in place, have seen anti-mandate policies blocked by judges, and broadly, the Education Department isn’t opening investigations into states where anti-mask mandate policies either have been overturned or aren’t being enforced. However, authorities are “closely monitoring” those states, they say. Meanwhile, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona — who was just recently directed by President Joe Biden to examine potential courses of legal action against anti-mask mandate policies — commented as follows this week:

‘It’s simply unacceptable that state leaders are putting politics over the health and education of the students they took an oath to serve… The department will fight to protect every student’s right to access in-person learning safely.’

As explained by the Associated Press, should “the investigations determine that the state mask bans have discriminated against students with disabilities, it could lead to sanctions including a loss of federal education funding.” Essentially, the policies against mask mandates in schools could entail discrimination against students who, in the current environment, need mask mandates to safely go to school. Although COVID-19 has generally been discussed as an illness that more severely affects older populations, no age group is somehow completely immune from its damaging and potentially deadly effects, and children have been among those hospitalized amid the virus’s latest wave.

Meanwhile, a court defeat for efforts in Florida to block the implementation of school mask mandates unfolded just last week. Federal Judge John Cooper ruled that an order by Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis meant to block such mandates could not be legally left in place, explaining that relevant Florida law “does not support a statewide order, or any action, interfering with the constitutionally provided authority of local school districts to provide for the safety and health of children, based on the unique facts on the ground in a particular county,” as reported by Miami Herald journalist Mary Ellen Klas. Certain school districts had already implemented mask mandates in defiance of the governor, but now, more local officials could feel free to do the same, no matter DeSantis’s team’s plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.