US representative Charlie Crist Calls on federal officials, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act, to intervene in the state’s ban on school mask mandates.
In one Letter sent to the Secretary of the US Department of Justice Merrick garland and Secretary of the US Department of Education Miguel Cardona, Crist urges enforcement of disability rights laws and calls for guidelines for school districts attempting to enforce a mask mandate amid the surge in COVID-19 cases across the state.
“Not only has Governor DeSantis refused to take the lead during this pandemic, he’s making it worse,” Crist said in a statement. “Its executive order ‘Defund the Schools’ fails to keep our schools open and safe and illegally denies students with disabilities equal access to the classroom.”
Crist, also a 2022 gubernatorial candidate, is pushing against the State Board of Education’s latest exemption that bans it Mask requirement in schools, according to an order from Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Now is DeSantis faced with pushback by parents of children with disabilities suing the required opt-out option – a lawsuit that Crist sets out in his letter.
That Lawsuit from parents of students with disabilities Claims preventing schools from enforcing the mask requirement could be fatal for students with disabilities who are at high risk of disease, especially children under 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
“I write with concern about the right of children with disabilities in Florida to attend school safely,” writes Crist. “According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children with intellectual or developmental disabilities like Will are more susceptible to COVID-19 and statistically more severe outcomes if they contract this virus.”
Pointing out section 504 of the ADA, Crist says the mask ban violates the rights of children with disabilities.
“Any policy that gives individual parents the right to unsafe students with disabilities in school appears to violate Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as it would either exclude those children from school or force them into isolated settings “, Writes Crist.
The Democratic Congressman also highlights an open letter from the American Academy of Pediatrics. signed by over 800 Florida doctorswhich suggests that universal masks are the best way to keep schools open and safe during an outbreak.
“Over 800 doctors in Florida, including dozens of my constituents, have signed an open letter recommending that school districts take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of all children, especially those who have not been vaccinated,” writes Crist. “Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all students in school wear face masks to prevent transmission of the virus and its variants, while the lack of face-to-face learning has a disproportionate impact on students with disabilities.”
But despite the nationwide ruling, some school districts are pushing back.
The school districts of Alachua and Broward Counties have imposed mandatory masking obligationswhich causes the state to withhold funds for non-compliance.
The Florida Department of Education will hold a second emergency meeting of the Education Committee on mask guidelines in schools on August 17 at 4:00 p.m.
Board members will consider two school districts to oppose the order banning masks.
School districts are at risk from funding cuts, but penalties have not turned out quite as DeSantis’ original threat was intended. DeSantis’ supreme command threatened to cut school district budgets if mask mandates were given, but later he went back that saying he just would Reduction in salaries for school board members and school principals who has implemented the requirements.