Since Florida Governor Ron DeSantis passed a bill at the end of July preventing public school districts in his state from mandating face masks, COVID-19 infections among students and staff have seen a concerning uptick. As such, in the interest of student and staff safety, many of these public school districts have opted to enact mask mandates in defiance of DeSantis’ bill.
As of yesterday, ten Florida public school districts are requiring all students and staff to remain masked on school property, barring those who have a note from a doctor due to an extenuating medical circumstance. The latest counties to join are Orange and Indian River counties, and with their addition, a majority of Florida’s public school districts are now using individual mask mandates.
The Florida Department of Education has threatened to withhold “an amount equal to 1/12 of the total annual compensation of the school board members who voted to impose the unlawful mask mandates” on a monthly basis. Representatives of the administration have condemned the schools for ignoring DeSantis’ bill, with Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary, saying “Nobody is above the law, not even school board politicians.”
More than half of Florida’s students now go to schools with mask mandates, defying DeSantis https://t.co/9wAauOoV8m
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) August 25, 2021
However, major governmental and medical officials are staunchly on the side of the schools in this matter. Mayo Clinic doctor Nipunie Rajapakse reiterated the importance of wearing face masks, saying “Because of the concerns that have been raised about whether there are any negative effects of masking on children, there have been now numerous studies done. These studies have unequivocally shown that there are no negative health effects on children from wearing a mask.”
Speaking on behalf of the Biden Administration, US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said they would “assist any district facing repercussions” for following the CDC’s face mask recommendations.
“It is deeply troubling to see state leaders putting politics ahead of the health and safety of our students, and that instead of supporting our educators for doing the right thing, state leaders are trying to punish them,” Cardona said in a statement.