‘I’m standing in your way’: Florida school districts split on response to Governor DeSantis as cases skyrocket

Carter Mudgett, News Editor

COVID-19 cases have topped 200 million as children across the country begin the return to school. In Florida, the “epicenter” for America’s coronavirus pandemic according to NPR, school districts are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do they issue mask mandates to protect their students, risking a loss in funding, or do they abide by Governor DeSantis’s order?

On July 30, DeSantis issued an executive order forbidding schools from issuing mask mandates because they “violate Floridians’ constitutional freedoms” according to the order. 

Screenshot from Executive Order 21-175.

The order also says that any student who experiences “COVID-19 harassment” will be eligible for a Hope Scholarship, allowing them to transfer to another school in a different district. DeSantis continues to publicly denounce mask-wearing, expressing the desire to leave it up to parents. 

At a news conference last week, DeSantis responded to criticism from President Joe Biden about anti-mask policies. 

“Well, let me tell you this: if you’re coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I’m standing in your way,” said DeSantis. 

The Duval County School District met for a two-hour-long discussion on their mask policy last week. Ultimately, they decided to add that “any student not wearing a mask [… must] complete the opt-out procedures provided by his/her/their assigned school.” This followed a debate amongst 43 people, according to Action News Jax

Other districts, like Orange County Public Schools and Broward County, continue to mandate the masks as of the time of writing. 

“Out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our students and employees,” Barbara Jenkins, Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, said in a memo, “I am implementing required face masks for all students unless the parent chooses to opt-out of the requirement.”

The Broward County School Board is set to meet tomorrow, Aug. 10, to discuss the next steps as safety remains their “highest priority.” School Board Chair Dr. Rosalind Osgood and Interim Superintendent Dr. Vickie L. Cartwright said that the District’s face covering policy “remains in place” during a video statement

Currently, the CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors and in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission. More information can be found here

A battle continues to rage between schools and Governor DeSantis as the school year rapidly approaches. Spinnaker will continue to follow these events as more COVID-19 information is released.


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