Some school districts will continue to impose their strict mask mandates, even though a key court ruling has been appealed and the legal battle continues over who has control over mask-wearing at public schools — local boards or the DeSantis administration.
Chris Petley, a communications staffer for the Leon County School District at the state capital, said the district will keep its mask mandate in place, which requires students in kindergarten through 8th grade to wear masks and only allows kids to opt out for medical reasons.
“Nothing changes for us,” Petley told the Phoenix.
A communications staffer with the Miami-Dade school district told the Phoenix the district is standing by its mask policy, which requires everyone over the age of two to wear a mask in school unless the student has a medical opt out. The district insists that it “remains in compliance” with state laws and rules.
And the Alachua County school district, in the Gainesville area, will also carry on with its strict mask mandate, regardless of the current state of a lawsuit on the mask issue.
“It really doesn’t affect what were doing with our mask policy,” Jackie Johnson, communications staffer for the Alachua County school district, told the Florida Phoenix. The district has been hit with financial penalties from the state for its strict mask policy, which requires all students to wear a masks unless there is a medical reason.
“We still feel that we are following the law, and that’s something that the judge (John Cooper) agreed with as well,” Johnson said.
[Flagler County schools do not have a mask mandate. An attempt to enact an emergency mandate for a few weeks failed on Aug. 17.]
At issue is an ongoing debate on whether local school boards should be able to mandate masks for schoolchildren during the surge of COVID-19 cases in Florida, or if such decisions should be left up to parents.
The DeSantis administration says parents, not local school boards, should make decisions on masks for their children. The opinion of state education officials is that districts with strict mask mandates are not complying with Florida law and rules that intend to protect a parent’s right to direct the upbringing of their children, and that includes masks.
Yet, under the Florida Constitution, school boards have the power to make those decisions. And there are at least a dozen districts that have implemented mask policies that only allow students to opt out for a medical reason, despite potentially facing penalties from state education officials.
This conflict led to litigation and a ruling on Aug. 27 that would enjoin Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the state Department of Education and the Florida Board of Education from imposing a blanket ban on face mask mandates by school boards. Leon Circuit Judge John Cooper verbally announced that decision, but the written order did not come down until Thursday.
The defendants, Corcoran and his colleagues, quickly appealed the ruling to the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.
The appeal triggers what’s called an “automatic stay,” meaning that the judge’s ruling is not currently in effect while the appeal process continues.
Plaintiffs in the suit — some parents worried about their children’s safety during the pandemic without a strict mask mandate — are already working to overturn the automatic stay, which would reactivate Judge Cooper’s initial ruling and bar state education officials from penalizing districts for strict mask mandates while the appeal plays out.
Florida Education Association president Andrew Spar said that districts imposing strict mask mandates this school year are on the “right side of the law.”
“I’ll say what we had hoped last year, and that I still hope this year — is that the justices look at the law, look at the need to protect the health of all,” Spar told the Phoenix.
He also expected that some districts would continue to impose mask mandates as the lawsuit shakes out in the appellate court.
“And I think what school districts are saying in their responses to the Commissioner of Education is that they are following the law,” Spar said.
“They have a constitutional responsibility…to keep kids safe.”
–Danielle J. Brown, Florida Phoenix
Mike Cocchiola says
Rational parents and school boards need to hold firm on mask mandates. They are on the right side of the law and of medical science. No student, teacher, or staff member should die to satisfy DeSantis’ lust for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election. That’s what his madness is all about… trading deaths for delegates.
Control is the name of the game. Get these kids ready to be controlled by government fir the rest of their life. I think that might be called socialism or maybe communism? NEVER trust the government!
This is about health. Not about government control. School boards are trying to make sensible decisions for the welfare of all concerned. Children not wearing a mask because the adults fear government “control”, is illogical and anti-social behavior that defies the thinking of sensible people.
Frank W says
This is the one thing that DeSantis got wrong. While I agree with his basic premise, that masks should not be mandated for children, Florid should continue allowing local districts control of their schools, students and teachers. His threats to withholding funding for districts that choose to make masks mandatory is the type of heavy handedness one would expect from Democrats.
At the very least, a district that does choose to mandate masks should allow parents the opinion for their children to opt out of the use of masks and of course medical and religious objects should be honored.
I disagree. This is a worldwide pandemic that’s killing hundreds of people a day in Florida. There’s no magic barrier surrounding Florida preventing the mass infections from extending to the rest of the country and world. People’s lack of personal responsibility will kill more and perpetuate the virus longer. This only works if we work together.
As schools opened Tuesday in 45 out of 67 counties, Florida had the second-highest number of children hospitalized for the treatment of COVID-19 in the nation. These innocents don’t know a thing about politics, but are paying the price because adults like Gov. Ron DeSantis have put politics before children’s health.
Some sad news form SC. A South Carolina elementary school student with COVID has died.
The Aiken County Coroner’s Office said a 9-year-old died Wednesday, WJBF reported.
Why take a chance with your children in the name of a political agenda or even if the parent thinks they know best. These little ones don’t understand and could end up paying the ultimate price or have life long health issues if their parents are wrong.
Katrina Elizabeth Friel says
You don’t trust the government unless it is someone you endorse. The hypocrisy from both sides is mind blowing.
Messaging from the anti-maskers says not to “trust the government”. Messaging from the anti-fascists is the same, “don’t trust the government”. Would that be the federal, state or local? The fed says one thing, the state says another, science and statistics (if being correctly reported) tells a frightening story, the media sensationalizes everything!(?)
I am going with what I know personally (intellectually) and feel in my gut (intuitively). I have watched several families suffer through this virus by losing health, finances, life, quality of life. I have had a member of my professional team taken by Covid-19. My personal experience is telling me, I DON’T WANT TO TAKE ANY CHANCES. Even if you beat the illness it still costs time away from loved ones and work. There is nothing convenient about this illness at best. Its a a non-discriminatory killer at worst.
DeSantis is trying to go the way of Texas. Where we can mandate a reproductive system but not protection of a respiratory system. Its time to fight back.
If you love your children, you will care less about them “learning to be controlled” (because you are doing just that by indoctrinating them into your political agendas, moms and dads). They can learn all about that when they are a little older and have the competency to make those decisions. Right now your job as parents is to PROTECT the health and well being of your children so that they can grow up to be just as ridiculous as you.