The U.S. Education Department announced that it will open an investigation into the Florida Department of Education regarding possible violations of student rights by prohibiting school districts from requiring masks.

A spokesperson for the department said that the investigation is being led by the Office for Civil Rights.

The spokesperson stated that Florida may be hindering school districts from meeting the needs students with disabilities. This is due to the state’s strict mask policy. It requires schools to give parents or legal guardians the option to opt out of Covid mandates.

DeSantis issued a directive prohibiting mask mandates in schools last July. He threatened to impose sanctions on districts who violate the order. The Florida Board of Education approved sanctioning the Alachua, Broward County public school districts for imposing .mask mandates.

In a letter addressed to Richard Corcoran, the commissioner of the Florida Department of Education, the federal agency said the investigation will focus on “whether, in light of this policy, students with disabilities who are at heightened risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are prevented from safely returning to in-person education, in violation of Federal law. The letter cited national data that showed children with certain underlying medical conditions, such as disabilities, are more likely to develop severe illnesses from Covid than the rest of the population. Florida continues to experience an increase in deaths, hospitalizations, and cases. August was Florida’s deadliest month since the pandemic began last year, according to Covid-19 data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of pediatric hospitalizations has also increased due to the delta variant of the coronavirus, which seems to be more harmful for children than the previous versions.

Image: Dartunorro ClarkDartunorro Clark

Dartunorro Clark covers politics, including the Covid-19 recovery, for NBC News.