On Wednesday, school districts in the cities of Tampa and Miami defied orders from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and implemented their own mask mandates on students, according to Politico.
The school boards of both Miami-Dade and Hillsborough voted to enact even stricter coronavirus restrictions than before, requiring all students to wear masks for the entirety of each school day in the coming 2021-2022 school year. DeSantis’s office had previously warned that any districts which defy state laws banning local mask mandates could face a loss of funding.
Responding to the news out of Miami and Tampa, DeSantis said that “forcing young kids to wear masks all day” is “not defying me. That’s defying the state of Florida’s laws and the parents’ bill of rights that was enacted just this past legislative session that I signed into law.”
Other counties that have chosen to violate state law include Alachua County and Broward County, where officials have repeatedly and incorrectly insisted that forcing masks on students is the best way to preserve public health. Miami-Dade school board member Lucia Baez-Geller falsely said that masks are “the best choice right now for our students’ health and safety.”
The handful of counties were emboldened by Joe Biden’s administration, after Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona confirmed on Tuesday that he had spoken to officials from a handful of school boards in states such as Texas and Florida, privately encouraging them to continue defying their respective governors. Cardona said that any districts that are threatened with defunding from the state government will receive new funding from the federal government.
The tensions reflect growing confusion over how to reopen schools for the fall semester, amidst the spread of the India Variant, also known as the “Delta Variant.” The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) admitted recently that the vaccines do not work in preventing the spread of the virus, and thus has ordered everyone, even vaccinated individuals, to start wearing masks again, while also ordering all K-12 students to wear masks in schools at all times. Governors in states such as Florida, Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee have gone out of their way to ban such mask mandates at the state and local level, instead putting the final decision into the hands of parents.