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The Biden administration could launch investigations into civil rights violations for states banning masks, secretary of education says

Georgia mask protest
Pro-mask wearing demonstrators stage a protest at the Cobb County School Board Headquarters Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021, in Marietta, Georgia.

  • States including Florida have tried to ban schools from imposing mask mandates.
  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has threatened to withhold funds from schools that require masks.
  • Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said states can’t withhold federal funds from schools.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

States that ban schools from instating mask mandates could be investigated for civil rights violations, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said.

“We are prepared to launch investigations with our Office for Civil Rights to ensure that all students have access to this fundamental right of education. And it’s sad that we’re talking about this now,” Cardona told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” on Sunday.

COVID-19 cases are surging in the country with the rise of the highly transmissible Delta variant and children are becoming infected and hospitalized at much higher rates. The Tampa Bay Times reported that in Florida, a quarter of all cases over the past week were in people younger than 19. Those under 12 also had a 23% positivity rate, while those between 12 and 19 had a 25% positivity rate.

On July 31, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that prohibited mask mandates in schools. Earlier this month, DeSantis also threatened to withhold paychecks for school board members in districts that impose masks.

Cardona said schools that do instate mask mandates can’t be denied federal funds. “We have to do everything in our power to keep them safe,” Cardona said of the Alachua and Broward County school districts in Florida.

The state’s Board of Education threatened to withhold funds from the districts if they don’t comply with the governor’s executive order.

“I spoke to the superintendents of those two communities and I let them know that we have their back. And yes, they can draw down on the funds that were promised to them so they can safely reopen schools,” Cardona said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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