Miami, Tampa Schools Demand Masks in Defiance of DeSantis
(Bloomberg) -- Two of Florida’s largest school districts voted Wednesday to defy Governor Ron DeSantis and require masks for students, joining a growing chorus of opposition to the state ban on such mandates.
The Miami-Dade County School Board, overseeing the state’s largest district, voted 7-1 on Wednesday to require its 334,000 students to wear face coverings when classes begin next week, with the exception of students who provide a doctor’s note. At almost the same time, the Hillsborough County School Board, whose district includes Tampa, voted 5-2 in favor of a similar measure.
Both schools agreed to review the protocols periodically based on the evolving state of the pandemic.
“The stakes are too high not to make sure we do everything we can to ensure the safety of our children,” said Marta Perez, a Miami-Dade board member.
The votes are a rebuke to DeSantis, who issued an order last month that effectively started the process of banning school mask mandates. The governor’s order set in motion rules to “protect parents’ right” to make decisions for their kids on school masks. The state’s education board is still reviewing possible consequences, but says they could include loss of funding or dismissal of officials from their posts.
Under the rules, parents must at least have a right to opt out of any mask requirement. DeSantis says the order is protecting the spirit of Florida’s new “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” which he signed in July.
In Hillsborough, the change comes as its schools -- which began last week -- already have 10,384 students in isolation or quarantine, or about 5% of the student population. That requirement is temporary for the next 30 days. The district had been asking students to wear masks, but parents were allowed to opt-out without any doctor’s note, as allowed under the state rules. Now, they will go further.
“If we’re just asking for a 30-day protective measure, isn’t that the least we can do for our children,” board chair Lynn Gray said at the meeting Wednesday. “If it saves one life, 10 hospitalizations, isn’t that the least that we can do?”
Hillsborough Superintendent Addison Davis told the board he opposed the change because he didn’t want to break with the guidelines. “For me and my particular core values, we just can’t break it,” he said.
In Miami-Dade, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho sided with the board’s decision.
“This is not a political statement,” Carvalho said. “This is a protective tool.”
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