Miami-Dade County, the largest school district in Florida, voted Wednesday to make masks mandatory in the new school year for students, teachers and support staff. Miami-Dade becomes the latest district to disregard Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates in school, putting the district and specifically, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. DeSantis has threatened retribution against school officials who defy his orders, including withholding personal salaries and even funding for schools.
Earlier in the day, Hillsborough County Schools, which covers the Tampa area, voted to require students and teachers to wear masks in schools for the next 30 days as more than 10,000 of its students have been forced to quarantine due to COVID. They join Broward and Alachua Counties in going against the governor’s edict.
The mask requirement, which applies to all indoor areas and school buses, will be revisited periodically to determine if it is needed based on COVID cases in the area, according to the Miami Herald. There is no parental opt-out. Only children who receive a medical endorsement from a licensed Florida physician can opt out of the mandate. There is no religious exemption in Miami-Dade’s policy.
After the board meeting, the superintendent made it clear to NBC 6 Miami that he’s not concerned about the governor’s threats.
The school board’s public health task force has called for a mask mandate for students and employees for the upcoming school year, which starts next week, because of the upswing in COVID-19 cases rise across South Florida. Despite that, there were dozens of anti-mask protesters outside the board meeting.
Florida’s Board of Education would officially oversee any type of punitive action for districts and school board officials who ignore DeSantis’ orders against mask mandates. On Tuesday, the Board of Ed voted unanimously to investigate two school districts — including Broward County — to impose possible sanctions and report to the state Legislature, which could take additional action for violating rules such as not allowing opt-out for parents who don’t want their children wearing masks.
Carvalho and other Florida school superintendents may have a powerful ally watching their back: The President of the United States.
President Biden said Wednesday his administration is ready to take legal action against any governors like DeSantis, Texas’ Greg Abbott and Arizona’s Doug Ducey, who try to stop school districts from putting mask requirements in place.