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Florida’s Largest School District, Which Defied DeSantis, May Soon Ease Mask Mandate

Florida’s Largest School District, Which Defied DeSantis, May Soon Ease Mask Mandate

 TAMPA, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 21: Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis speaks during a CNN debate against opponent Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018, in Tampa, Fla.

Florida’s largest school district, which defied GOP Governor Ron DeSantis’ order for schools to permit parents to decide whether their children should wear masks in school or not, is now saying they may ease their mask mandate by the end of October.

“The number of students needing to quarantine in Miami-Dade County public schools has dropped significantly since school started in August, school Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Wednesday,” the Associated Press reported. “He said the decision would be based on the latest COVID-19 data and the advice of a task force of local doctors advising the district.”

The mask mandate would not be completely removed, but rather, an opt-out feature for parents would likely be added, the superintendent said at a meeting this week, reports the Miami Herald.

“[L]ess than 1,000 of the district’s 330,000 students were required to quarantine” last week, the lowest number they have yet recorded, reports the Associated Press, citing Carvalho.

In early October, the Florida Board of Education voted to sanction eight school districts, all of which the Board said implemented mask mandates but wouldn’t let parents opt their children out.The Board of Education deemed that Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange, and Palm Beach counties had not complied with the emergency rule issued by the Florida Department of Health on September 22, which stated:

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, Florida Board of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has requested that funds for each district be withheld ‘in an amount equal to 1/12 of all school board members’ salaries,’ in addition to withholding any amount equal to federal grant funds awarded to those districts by President Joe Biden’s administration,” CNN reported.

At the time the emergency rule was issued, 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.

In September, Judge K. Michael Moore in Miami refused to block DeSantis’ executive order which was the basis for the state’s Florida Department of Health rule requiring school districts to permit parents to choose whether their children wore masks in school.

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