Gov. DeSantis Bans Mask Mandates in Florida Schools

Parents+across+the+state+of+Fla.+have+come+together+to+fight+the+ban+of+mask+mandates+in+Fla.+schools.+The+fight+against+the+governors+executive+order%2C+which+banned+mask+mandates%2C+has+begun+as+COVID+cases+in+Fla.+are+on+the+rise.+++

Sydney Appleton

Parents across the state of Fla. have come together to fight the ban of mask mandates in Fla. schools. The fight against the governor’s executive order, which banned mask mandates, has begun as COVID cases in Fla. are on the rise.

Sydney Appleton, Staffer

As the back-to-school season begins, COVID cases are on the rise. In late July, Gov. DeSantis issued an executive order which banned mask mandates in Fla. public schools. With the low vaccination rates among children, parents are frustrated with the decision. Many parents are fearful for their child’s safety and health when returning to school this Aug. Parents of students under the age of twelve are especially fearful, because their children are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The current CDC guidelines, which were updated on July 26, say that if you are not fully vaccinated, you need to wear a mask in indoor public places. This recommendation includes inside the classroom, regardless of age.

Hillsborough County Schools, along with several other counties in the state, have boldly defied the governor’s executive order and implemented mask mandates. In Hillsborough County Public Schools, there is a mask mandate, but students have the option to opt-out and not wear a mask. Most students have chosen to not wear a mask.

COVID cases in schools have already started to arise. According to the Hillsborough County Public School’s COVID-19 case dashboard, as of Aug. 18, two thousand students and teachers have reported a positive test since Aug. 2nd. 10,000+ students in the county have been sent home to self-isolate and quarantine due to exposure in school.

Plant High School’s PTA president, Damaris Allen, has been involved with the school board since the pandemic began. She believes masks are the most effective option for keeping everyone safe and healthy. “I do believe everyone should be in masks because masks work the best when both parties are wearing them,” Allen said.

Even students are acknowledging the possibility of COVID outbreaks in schools. Sophomore Maddie Burgin shared her concern for the issue. “I think cases will for sure spread in school because you are bringing in so many kids who are exposed to hundreds of different people daily,” Burgin said.

After the first week of school, which came with loads of COVID cases, quarantines, and worried parents, the Superintendent of Hillsborough County Schools, Addison Davis, called for an emergency school board meeting, which took place on Wednesday, Aug. 18.

The meeting was open to public speakers. The board listened to many speakers over a four-hour meeting. During the meeting, the board approved a motion which implements a stricter mask mandate. The new mandate says everyone must wear a mask unless you a have a formal note from a doctor saying that you have a genuine medical reason that prevents you from wearing one. This decision has put many minds at ease, but the battle is far from over, as litigation concerning the viability of mask mandates is pending.

Some parents from Hillsborough County, Miami-Dade, Orange, Alachua and Pinellas counties formed a group to pursue legal action against DeSantis. They claim that the order violates a section of the state constitution that, “ensures uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high-quality system of public schools.” Parents are even more frustrated that this executive order was put into place as cases are on the rise and the delta variant is spreading rapidly.

Over the last week, DeSantis has been trying to dismiss the lawsuit, but John Cooper, a circuit judge of Leon County, is still set to hear arguments in the lawsuit on Aug. 23 and plans to move forward as scheduled. Parents all over the state are waiting to hear what the judge decides as cases continue to rise in staggering numbers daily. Time will tell if the courts take the side of Gov. DeSantis or the parents who filed the litigation.