More than half of Florida students must wear masks, challenge DeSantis

More than half of Florida students must wear masks, challenge DeSantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

More than half of Florida students are now required to wear face masks while in the classroom, following the addition of mask-wearing mandates announced by the Orange and Indian River school districts, according to

Several weeks before classes were to resume, Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order prohibiting the mandates of masks in the state and reinforces the right of parents to choose whether their child wears a mask at school.

State officials have threatened to withhold funds equivalent to school board salaries if a school district does not comply with Governor DeSantis’ order. Those funds represent less than 1% of each district’s budget.

Since the executive order, many school districts have enacted mask requirements, but with the option to opt out with a note from parents or guardians. According to the governor’s office, these flexible mandates do not violate the DeSantis order. While districts that have mask mandates but require a doctor’s note to opt out, they are violating the state order.

As of Wednesday, 10 Florida counties have passed mask-wearing mandates that require a doctor’s note. Those school districts include some of the largest in the state, such as Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Leon, Alachua, and Orange. Although Florida has 67 counties, those 10 school districts contain more than 52% of the state’s 2.8 million public school students.

However, there is an ongoing lawsuit in which a judge can decide if Florida’s school mask mandate policy can be upheld or if school districts leave the decision to parents or if school districts can implement their own mandates overriding the governor’s order.

The governor said during a press conference Wednesday at The Villages that believes that parents are in the best position to make health decisions for their students, and not the school district. He also said districts will continue to face consequences for violating state law.

“That’s what state law says and I think that’s the way to go, but no one is above the law. And you can’t go above the law and take away people’s rights. And that’s what they are doing, they are taking away parental rights and there will be consequences, “said DeSantis.

The Delta variant of coronavirusHighly contagious, it sparked an acceleration in Florida cases and record hospitalizations as schools prepared to reopen classrooms this month.

By mid-August, more than 21,000 new cases were being added per day, compared to 8,500 the previous month. The state said 16,820 people were hospitalized Tuesday, up from a record of more than 17,000 last week.

About 6 in 10 Americans say students and teachers should be required to wear face masks while at school, according to a survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

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