Florida parents, school boards openly rebel against DeSantis over coronavirus best state
MIAMI — A year ago, when Governor Ron DeSantis declared Florida open for business again — pandemic or no pandemic — any locality dared to exceed it by enforcing strict COVID-19 safety rules, he quietly did.
The popular Republican governor was on a roll with former President Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions of his own.
DeSantis applauded conservatives at a conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council in Salt Lake City in July, saying, “We clearly say no to lockdowns, not to close schools, not to sanctions and no to mandates. “
Backed by Republican legislators, DeSantis introduces legislation parental rights bill, which says the government cannot “violate the fundamental rights” of parents to run children’s education, health care and everything else.
The way things are going, DeSantis may have regrets for signing the bill. A Tallahassee state court judge used this as reason to issue a ruling, now on appeal, that DeSantis could not order local school boards to abandon the adopted masking rules when the school year began, Hospitalizations and deaths, amid alarming rise in COVID-19 cases.
The Masking Mandate has an opt-out provision, but applies only if there is documentation of a student’s physical or mental condition, such as a serious concern, that makes wearing a mask dangerous.
Now it seems that personal liberty DeSantis and his allies are running against the freedom of parents and teachers to protect children from infectious diseases. And informed, alert parents, their voices promoted by local school boards, may prove to be a bigger force than politics.
The Broward County School Board, in a letter to the Florida Department of Health, claimed some parents’ “fundamental right” to let their children go without masks.
“If such a fundamental and unlimited right did exist, it would inevitably conflict with the right of a parent … to wear a face covering in order to come into contact,” the letter said.
Still, some parents have protested and sued school districts over their masking requirements. And many Florida school boards, especially in smaller Republican counties, support the governor’s stance.
“We have members from both sides,” says Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association. Florida public schools had 2,791,687 students enrolled for the 2020-21 school year, according to education Department.
“There is a difference of opinion about what child protection looks like,” she says. “Those who are not wearing masks also have a protective instinct. They all believe that they are doing what is best for their local community and they all believe that it is the children is protecting.”
Private and parochial schools are not affected by DeSantis’ order, and James Herzog Florida Association of Academic Non-Public Schools Said it has no masking policy. The association represents more than 1,300 schools and 300,000 students, according to its website.
Nearly 12 percent of Florida students, a record 397,970, attended private school in 2019-2020, Florida Trend magazine informed ofBased on the survey of the Department of Education. Another 105,115 were home-schooled.
Pro-masking public school boards adopted their protocol in response to data showing that non-vaccinated children under the age of 12 are more vulnerable to the highly contagious Delta variant. studies show That masking is one of the best safety measures for youth and their elder family members and teachers.
“I haven’t found anything to suggest that masks put children’s health at risk,” says Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a pediatrician and professor at the University of Florida’s Child Health Research Institute.
“We have good data that masks work,” she says. “Districts with mask mandates have lower infection rates than districts without masks.”
“I hear people say kids don’t get sick. Some kids do,” Rasmussen says. “The bottom line is that the number of cases is going up and there are more hospitalizations. Our hospital is seeing a lot more kids than kids and it’s really concerning,” she said, referring to Shands Hospital in Gainesville. says.
Twelve school districts, representing more than half of Florida public school students, are openly rebelling against the governor’s anti-mandate order. Four of them are in Indian River, Sarasota, Brevard and Hernando counties, the Republican stronghold that DeSantis is counting on for his reelection next year.
The school board in Broward, the most Democratic-leaning of Florida’s 67 counties, was the first to require students to wear masks.
Responding to the rebellion, DeSantis is trying to use the state’s funding authority to defeat defiant school boards to submit.
They are still protesting. Alberto Carvalho, the head of the school district of Miami-Dade County, the country’s fourth largest, announced that he would keep his masking rules in place.
Last week, The state education department withheld an amount equal to the salaries of board members from Broward and Alachua counties.
After the state made good on DeSantis’ salary threat, Broward School Superintendent Vicki Cartwright assured board members that they were following the law and doing what was best for students and teachers.
“Our quarantine data is demonstrating that the use of masks is helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Cartwright told an emergency board meeting.
Dean Trantalis, the mayor of Broward’s county seat and largest city, Fort Lauderdale, commended the school board for making the community-based decisions. He says he expects DeSantis to reconsider his “one size fits all” virus mitigation measures like masking.
“This new approach that the governor and the legislature have taken has significantly undermined our efforts to work with local groups to adapt to the Delta version,” Trantalis says. “The challenge has left many of us guessing where is the next turning point in this disease that is so random and aggressive. We must find as many ways as possible to defeat it.”
DeSantis’ retaliation against pro-masking school districts has drawn fire from the federal government. President Joe Biden recently pledged to make up for the funding shortfall on Thursday.
“I promise you, I’ll give you a pat on your back,” the president said during an address from the White House.
Also, Florida is likely to be included in a list of anti-school masking states by the US Department of Education, which is investigating possible violations of the rights of students with disabilities. The investigation already targets Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.
Public health expert Elizabeth Stuart sees a less national trend of the state government banning local school district masking rules.
“I think there is a movement across the country to wear more masks and less restrictions on masks,” says Professor Stuart from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“People are nervous because they think our kids are going to be under masks forever,” she says. “But remember, this pandemic is at a very high level right now, especially in Florida, so implementing it makes a lot of sense.”
“A good strategy is to rest it after cases have subsided, but we’re not there yet,” says Stuart. “We can expect this to be a temporary strategy.”
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