The second-largest school district in Florida dropped its mask mandate Monday after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an Executive Order that would cut off funding to schools that implemented one.
“Broward County Public Schools intends to comply with the Governor’s latest Executive Order,” the district announced in an online statement Monday.
The Executive Order was signed by DeSantis Saturday. It prevented mask mandates in schools while threatening to withhold state funding from schools that ignore his wishes.
According to a press release from DeSantis’ office, Executive Order 21-175 (Ensuring Parents’ Freedom to Choose – Masks in Schools) was signed “in response” to districts such as Broward who considered a mandate.
DeSantis believes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations that students in grades K-12 wear masks even if they are fully vaccinated are “unscientific” and “inconsistent,” according to the press release.
Previously, the governor said mask mandates “show a callous disregard for the physical, emotional and academic well-being of our children.” (RELATED: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis To Take Executive Action Against COVID-19 Vaccine Passports)
“The force masking, it has harmed students … Shouldn’t this be something that the parent is at best to evaluate, the effect that this will have on their children?” DeSantis said.
Broward County Public School implemented their mandate just two days before DeSantis’ Executive Order, calling it a “moral decision,” according to The Hill.
“There is no way in good conscience that I could bring anybody back into a school environment on the bus, the cafeteria, and not have a mask mandate,” Broward School Board Chair Rosalind Osgood said, according to The Hill.
Without the mandate, the district claims safety remains their “highest priority” and plans to implement other measures to keep students healthy.
“The District will advocate for all eligible students and staff to receive vaccines and strongly encourage masks to be worn by everyone in schools. The District will also work to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, including frequent cleaning and disinfecting of our schools, physical distancing, hand washing, and staying home when sick,” the online statement read.
Florida students ages 12 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. According to a weekly situation report released by the Florida Department of Health in July, 38% of students ages 12 to 19 are vaccinated.
Currently, the state is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, with the number of new cases per week spiking 50% last week from the previous week, according to the report. Cases in Florida have reached a high not seen since January 2021, when COVID-19 cases peaked across the country, according to The Hill.
— The Hill (@thehill) August 3, 2021
Despite the surge, DeSantis stood firmly behind his opposition to mask mandates and shutdowns and said schools will remain open, according to CNN.
The governor said Tuesday that COVID-19 mitigation efforts “have failed time and time again” to prevent virus spread during the pandemic — “not just in the U.S., but abroad.”