The Florida Board of Education has voted to sanction eight school districts, all of which violated the state’s ban on mask mandates by preventing parents from allowing their kids to opt-out of the requirement.
On Thursday, the Board of Education deemed that Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange, and Palm Beach counties have refused to comply with the emergency rule issued by the Florida Department of Health on Sept. 22, which ordered school districts not to violate Floridians constitutional freedoms and allow parents to make healthcare decisions for their children.
The rule, which was championed by Governor Ron DeSantis, calls for the protection of children with disabilities, or health conditions, who would otherwise be harmed if forced to put on a mask for long stretches of time. In schools, children are typically required to wear masks for entire school days, which can be up to eight hours.
The Conversation reported last year that schoolchildren were needing to wear masks for up to eight hours.
The emergency rule reads as follows:
In order to permit students to continue in-person learning, to minimize the detriment to students and school personnel from the added burden of recurrent removal of students, and to benefit the overall welfare of students in Florida, it is necessary to provide updated emergency guidance to school districts concerning the governance of COVID-19 protocols in schools.
This emergency rule conforms to Executive Order Number 21-175, which ordered the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Education to ensure safety protocols for controlling the spread COVID-19 in schools that (1) do not violate Floridians’ constitutional freedoms; (2) do not violate parents’ rights under Florida law to make health care decisions for their minor children; and (3) protect children with disabilities or health conditions who would be harmed by certain protocols, such as face masking requirements. The order directs that any COVID-19 mitigation actions taken by school districts comply with the Parents’ Bill of Rights, and “protect parents’ right to make decisions regarding masking of their children in relation to COVID-19.”
As a penalty for violating the state ban on mask mandates in schools, Florida Board of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran requested that funds for each district in violation of the rule be withheld “in an amount equal to 1/12 of all school board members’ salaries” as well as withholding any amount equal to federal grants awarded to those districts by the administration of President Joe Biden.
When Gov. DeSantis announced the rule in September, the Biden administration responded by saying it would cover the shortfall with federal funds to any school districts that impose the mask mandate against the state's orders.
Announcing the rule in September, DeSantis stated:
Parents have the right to have their healthy kids in school. In-person education is important for a students’ wellbeing, their educational advancement, and their social development. The idea that schools are somehow a big problem when it comes to spread of the virus has been refuted yet again. Not only is the forced quarantining of healthy children disruptive to a student’s education, but many folks in Florida are not able to work from home. With this rule, we are following a symptom-based approach to quarantining students in Florida.