Florida Board of Education to discuss school districts that require students to wear masks

On Tuesday, the Florida Board of Education (BOE) is set to have an emergency meeting to discuss if two Florida school districts are in non-compliance with Florida law because of their mask mandates for students this school year.

Broward and Alachua school districts require students to wear face masks despite Governor Ron DeSantis’ recent executive order prohibiting such mandates. He has threatened to withhold superintendent and staff salaries in districts with mask mandates.

The state BOE will meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday to decide if the two school districts are following Florida law, the Parents’ Bill of Rights, and the Department of Health’s Emergency Rule. Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is expected to report his findings of probable cause or a finding of no probable cause.

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The meeting notice on the state’s website stated, "Failure to faithfully follow the Parents’ Bill of Rights and the Department of Health’s emergency rule endangers the safety and educational opportunities of students in these districts and has the potential to cause learning loss for students."

Governor Ron DeSantis has threatened to withhold superintendent and staff salaries in districts with school mask mandates. Corcoran sent letters to Broward and Alachua counties expressing "grave concern" of the school districts’ "significant neglect" over the Governor’s executive order.

Alachua County Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon responded in a letter, explaining her district has seen more employees test positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks than the last five months. She said two of their custodians died of COVID-related complications a couple of weeks ago.

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"Parents are sending their most valued member of their life, they love their children. They’re putting them in our care and I want them to know we take this seriously. I want them to know this is a safe school," Dr. Simon said.

But Governor DeSantis is standing by his mandate.

"There are actually higher infection rates when you are just in the community versus when you are in the classroom, particularly for the younger kids," said Governor DeSantis. "These kindergarteners and first-graders are not people that are really transmitting this in significant levels."

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Orange and Seminole County school districts have mask mandates for students and staff, but parents can opt their child out of it. 

Face masks are optional for students in Brevard, Osceola, and Volusia counties. Adults inside Volusia County school buildings and facilities must wear a mask until September 11, when the district will re-evaluate its policy.

The state BOE emergency meeting will be live-streamed on the Florida Department of Education website at 4 p.m. Click here to watch it.

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