A fierce political tussle over masks in Florida schools soared this week, as the State Board of Education imposed sanctions on eight school districts for not adhering to the instructions issued by Governor Ron DeSantis’s administration that made masks optional in schools.
The eight districts may now have to face cutbacks equal to their school board members’ salaries unless, according to The New York Times, they counter the State Board of Education’s sanction within 48 hours with factual evidence that they are following the state orders.
The eight school districts which have been sanctioned are Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange, and Palm Beach Counties, according to Forbes.
The decision of sanction was taken unanimously during a virtual conference by the Florida State Board of Education, whose all the members were appointed by Republican governors.
Superintendents Counter Board Order
The unprecedented decision of sanction on eight districts was taken despite superintendents argued that the mask policies had been effective at curbing the spread of the virus.
In a report carried out by Tallahassee Democrat, one of the superintendents, Alberto M. Carvalho of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, took to Twitter to note that there had been “no major outbreaks” in his district and that student cases had been declining after a spike in early September.
“We disagree with today’s State Board of Education’s recommendation and wholeheartedly believe that we are in compliance with law, reason, and science,” he tweeted.
There have been no major outbreaks in our schools and student cases have been declining since peaking in early September, a trend we expect to continue due to our layered mitigation approach.
— Alberto M. Carvalho (@LAUSDSup) October 7, 2021
However, the State Board of Education rejected his statement, saying that the county school boards had “willingly and knowingly violated the rights of students and parents by denying them the option to make personal and private health care and educational decisions for their children.”
Center for Fierce Political Tussle
The issue of the use of masks in school has been at the center of fierce political battles in states like Florida, Texas, and Arizona where Republican governors opposed the mask dictate calling it out an intrusion into personal liberties.
In July this year, DeSantis, who is considered as a future Republican presidential candidate, signed an executive order urging the state bureaucrats to ensure parents have the authority to decide whether children wear masks in school, The New York Times reported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, suggested that all the students, teachers, and employees should wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status.
President Biden Slams Republican Governor DeSantis
President Joe Biden, a Democrat, reportedly slammed the Republican governors for halting local mask dictate. The federal Department of Education has launched an investigation to find whether such policies in five states violate the civil rights of disabled students.
A number of cases have also been lodged in Florida, challenging the bans on mask dictate.
In August, a federal judge said that the state constitution of Florida allowed school districts to implement strict mask mandates on students, nullifying DeSantis’s order.
The state also asked an appellate court to undo the ruling, which is awaited pending a final decision in the court.
On Thursday, the Florida school board argued that a “parents’ bill of rights” enacted by state lawmakers earlier in 2021 gave the parents the right to take a call on whether their children should wear masks in schools.
Tom Grady, the chairman of the state education board, said the officials have to comply with the law.
“Every school board member and every school superintendent has a duty to comply with the law, whether they agree with it or not. Protect parents’ right to make health care decisions such as masking of their children in relation to Covid-19,” the chairman of the state board, Tom Grady, said in the statement, reported The New York Times.