Two Florida school districts will not allow parents to opt their children out of their schools’ mask mandates, defying an order issued Friday by the Florida Department of Health, according to ABC News.
Superintendents Rocky Hanna and Carlee Simon, of Leon and Alachua Counties, announced at a Monday news conference their intentions to defy the guidelines put in place by the state, citing a surge in COVID-19 cases amid the rapid spread of the delta variant, ABC News reported.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order July 30 that gave the state education commissioner the ability to deny funds to school districts that violate the “parents’ right… to make health care decisions for their minor children.” The Florida Department of Health announced Friday a rule requiring school districts to allow parents to opt their children out of mask mandates.
“If something happened and things went sideways for us this week and next week as we started school, and heaven forbid we lost a child to this virus, I can’t just simply blame the governor of the state. I can’t,” Hanna said. “If there’s an out and I didn’t take the out, and I didn’t do what was best for the children here in Tallahassee and Leon County, that’s on me.”
Leon County parents can either submit to the district a signed form from a physician that would exempt their child from having to comply with the mask mandate for medical reasons or transfer their child to another school district, according to ABC News. (RELATED: ‘The Question Is What Else Has He Forgotten’: DeSantis Responds To Biden’s ‘Governor Who?’ Comment)
Risking financial consequences from the state of Florida, the superintendent of Leon County Schools refuses to allow parents to opt their children out of the district-wide mask mandate. https://t.co/gU3EWEvFje
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 9, 2021
Simon also announced that she would deny parents the option to opt their children out of the school mask mandate without a medical reason.
“I’m going to listen to the experts and let them guide this, and I think that’s what we need to do. The safety and the security and the quality of instructional hours are what matters right now,” Simon told ABC News. “I know it appears I’m being combative and I don’t want to be combative, but this is the responsibility I have in this position.”
Florida currently has the highest number of pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations in the nation, ABC News reported. The state also has one of the highest COVID-19 positivity rates and morbidity rates in the country, according to recent CDC data.