Half of Florida's Schools Face Mask Mandates In Defiance of Governor DeSantis

Tom Stevenson

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the midst of the worst Covid outbreak of the pandemic, half of Florida's schools will require students to wear a mask when schools return.

This means 2.8 million students will be required to wear masks in schools when they return. This is in defiance of Governor Ron DeSantis, who has tried to ban the mandates issued by schools.

DeSantis has not been shy of causing controversy during the pandemic and has taken a combative stance against restrictions even as cases have soared in recent weeks. Rather than accept certain measures may be needed, DeSantis has doubled down and stood firm.

With some schools already returning in Orange county, 1,968 positive cases were reported among students after they returned to class. Of that number, 1,491 were quarantining. This high number of positive cases would seem to dispel the idea children have little to fear from Covid.

In light of these numbers, neither the school boards nor Desantis is backing down. The school boards are determined to defy DeSantis, while DeSantis is eager to stop the schools from enforcing a mask mandate.

In a press conference on Wednesday, DeSantis suggested there would be consequences for school boards who defied him:

“Those schools districts are violating state law and they are overriding what the parents’ judgment is on this.”

He also stated cloth masks don't stop the spread of aerosols even though this is in direct contradiction to the CDC guidance.

As with most restrictions and medical advice during the pandemic, the debate over wearing masks in schools has become politicised leading to bitter disputes in some cases.

The father of a child who entered a school in Fort Lauderdale without a mask was arrested on Wednesday morning. He was videoing students at the school gates, which made students uncomfortable and resulted in a scuffle as some students tried to grab his cellphone. The father was charged with one count of aggravated child assault.

This comes as school boards in Miami-Dade county looking into the possibility of suing DeSantis and the state over his actions in regards to masks. They hit back at the governor in a virtual news conference on Wednesday:

“We will not be pressured by the governor or the state board of education when the safety and health of our students is involved. We have a constitutional duty to protect our students,”

With the Delta variant continuing to spread across the state, this battle between DeSantis and the school boards looks set to carry on for some time.

What are your thoughts? Do you believe Governor DeSantis is right to push back on the wearing of masks? Or are the schools right in prioritising the health of their students?

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