Gov. DeSantis issues order forbidding school mask mandates
Ron DeSantis speaks in Cape Coral. Image via Jacob Ogles

presser
He says the Parents' Bill of Rights gives the authority to families to make their own choice.

Florida reported nearly 7,000 positive COVID-19 tests last week for children age 12 and younger. South Florida school districts are already saying masks will be required when classes start again. But Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday issued an executive order forbidding school districts from mandating masks this year.

That came hours after DeSantis held an event in Cape Coral announcing he would take executive action to preempt any attempt at forcibly masking students.

“I want to see my kid smile,” he said.

Standing at a lectern with the words “Free to Choose” emblazoned on the front, DeSantis told a crowd parents must decide whether their own children wear masks in class.

“It has harmed students,” DeSantis said of mandates. “Shouldn’t this be something parents decide?”

The order itself authorized Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to “pursue all legal means available to ensure school districts adhere to Florida law, including but not limited to withholding state funds from noncompliant school board violating any rules or agency action” taken at the Governor’s direction. The order went into effect immediately.

Some where startled the order also made specific mention of funding. “If the State Board of Education determines that a district school board is unwilling or unable to comply with the law, the State Board shall have the authority to, among other things, withhold the transfer of state funds, discretionary grant funds, discretionary lottery funds, or any other funds specified as eligible for this purpose by the Legislature until the school district complies with the law or state board rule and declare the school district ineligible for completive grants,” the order reads.

And Sen. Gary Farmer, a Democrat who also represents part of Broward, promised to fight any attempt to stop the local school board from taking action.

“The Broward County School Board was and is right in their decision to mandate masks in our schools,” he said. “The science and evidence is crystal clear, the delta variant poses a significantly higher threat to younger people than previous iterations of the virus, and actions must be taken to ensure the protection of our children as they return to school. This is not an opinion, it is a fact clearly demonstrated by the more than 16,000 children have been hospitalized from COVID-19 this month alone. If this is not enough to pull on the heartstrings of Ron DeSantis, I question whether he even has a heart at all.”

The announcement comes as coronavirus infections surge in Florida faster than any other state, with the delta variant of the coronavirus giving new life to the pandemic. On Thursday, the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics issued an unambiguous argument for face coverings and distancing.

While DeSantis has hinted at a Special Session on the issue, he said he believes a Parents’ Bill of Rights signed into law in June ensures parents have the authority to make decisions about their own children’s medical and mental health. DeSantis said his executive order will clarify the law covers decisions about students wearing masks. He also argued many were hurt by a lack of face-to-face interactions in the classroom.

“It’s something that a lot of parents have been frustrated about, that a lot of students have been frustrated about,” DeSantis said. “I’ve had a lot of kids come up to me saying we don’t want to wear the masks going forward.”

Sen. Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, sponsored the Parents’ Bill of Rights legislation and believes it covers this situation.

“It absolutely provides the ability for the executive order to both the Department of Education and the Department of Health,” Rodrigues said. “That’s a decision that should be up to the parents.”

Senate President Wilton Simpson also issued a statement shortly after the DeSantis’ news conference supporting the policy.

“When it comes to mask mandates in our schools, parents need to be involved in the decision for their children,” he said. “I trust Florida parents to evaluate all of the information available and make the best decision about whether or not their children will be wearing a mask when they return to school next month. I’m grateful to Gov. DeSantis for his strong and steady leadership at every stage of the COVID-19 pandemic and appreciate his leadership on this issue, which is so important to many families across our state.”

Senate Republican Leader Debbie Mayfield also praised the executive order.

“I fully support the Governor’s plan to take executive action that will ensure parents have the final decision about whether or not their children wear masks in school,” she said. “My colleagues and I have heard from constituents across the state who are concerned about the possibility that their children would be required to wear masks when they return to school next month. Parents have not only the right but the responsibility to be involved in these decisions. The Governor did the right thing by getting out in front of this issue before the start of the school year. He is alleviating any confusion and making it clear that parents will have the final say.”

Still, some school districts in Florida have already made clear they intend to require masks next year. The Broward County School District will require masks when school starts there. Miami-Dade County schools will require masks while students are riding in school buses and district transit.

That likely sets up a legal showdown between DeSantis and those districts.

There have been rumblings from the Governor’s Office that DeSantis could call a Special Session to deal with the issue of school mask mandates. Speculation grew when his schedule revealed he had conversations Thursday with Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls.

However, the feeling at the news conference was that existing law allowed DeSantis to step in and block the districts from enforcing mandates.

Rodrigues said he does not believe a Special Session is necessary to address the issue and that the legislation and executive order should be enough.

Of note, the executive order does not preclude the Legislature “from exploring legislation to further protect the fundamental rights of students and parents to be free from excessive, harmful regulation in schools.”

DeSantis also heavily criticized the federal Centers for Disease Control for inconsistent direction on the matter of masks.

DeSantis acknowledged that most Florida school districts in the 2020-21 school year required masks for faculty and students. At the time, his top priority was ensuring in-classroom learning was available throughout the state.

He stressed the state had issued no such requirement, and some districts did not put one in place. He also cited a Brown University Study which he said proved there was no difference in COVID-19 transmission rates in schools requiring masks and those that did not.

“We’re here to say that in Florida, in the 2021 school year that the districts that did not require masks did not perform statistically different from those who did. The charter schools and private schools that didn’t require it also had similar outcomes.”

A parade of parents and teachers also spoke at the event, held at Two Meatballs in the Kitchen’s Cape Coral location. Teachers testified many students struggled with depression and isolation because of masks, and one parent said her honor roll student failed two classes for the first time as she dealt with lockdowns and policies tied to the pandemic.

“I knew it was not the right thing to be covering my face all day,” said Cyndy Ray, a teacher at a school in Southwest Florida, after describing when a student said months into the year a moment when she pulled off her mask was the first time he has seen her smile.

Executive Order 21 175 by Jacob Ogles on Scribd

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


36 comments

  • Tjb

    July 30, 2021 at 1:55 pm

    Let’s put our school children lives in jeopardy just to keep my base voting for me, is that what you are really saying Ron DeSantis. Also, what about a executive order forbidding bullet proof vests for law enforcement. Vests are not a 100% effective from an officer being shot and they are heavy and hot to wear. Masks do help to prevent the spread of new Covid 19 variants , as a vest can saves an officer from serious injury or death.

  • Sonja Fitch

    July 30, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    Yo Duffus Desantis does mrs Duffus Desantis know you hired a new pr person?lol. Yep just like your friend Gaetz. Playing around !

    • Ed

      July 30, 2021 at 9:31 pm

      Sonja still can’t spell. DeSantis will still win. Fried will be on Big Brother next year as a social influencer and marijuana harvester.

  • Andrew Finn

    July 30, 2021 at 4:44 pm

    Too bad we can’t have an executive order banning Ron DeSantis !! He has got to be the biggest jackass ever to hold political office, and that is some feat considering the competition !! Can’t wait to vote for anybody who runs against him next year, that is if we all live until then and if he doesn’t issue an executive order banning the election. Man I sure miss old Claude Kirk !!

    • Ed

      July 30, 2021 at 9:58 pm

      Biggest jackass holding political office? The list is long on your side. Just think about it for a minute. I’ll toss out Pelosi, Nadler, and AOC for starters. Many more to follow.

    • Melinda K Maddox Maddox

      July 31, 2021 at 1:09 pm

      Oh how I agree with you all the way!!
      First he takes the little bit of extra money the Feds are giving people who really need it, then the eviction mandate id here then ALL the eviction rent help programs are taking FOREVER I mean months, to help people stay in their homes and pay landlords, which is ridiculous !!!! Why are these agencies taking so long???? He is a person that doesn’t have to worry about all these things which makes me sick!!! Get him out of office!!!

  • zhombre

    July 30, 2021 at 5:03 pm

    Imbeciles on parade again. DeSantis will be re-elected governor and the trifecta of losers above can piss vinegar.

    • Tjb

      July 30, 2021 at 5:44 pm

      I would like to know more about the Brown University Study that DeSantis quoted. The one I read, addresses how a vaccine would be more effective than a mask. I sure it doesn’t make a difference to many of followers, they won’t scrutinize information because it requires research and critical thinking. Ron’s BS is their red meat. Right, zhombre.

      • zhombre

        July 31, 2021 at 8:39 am

        Actually I did ‘scrutinize’ the assertion “Florida reported nearly 7,000 positive COVID-19 tests last week for children age 12 and younger.” What Ogles did not mention, b ut was made clear in accounts in other sources, is that these are cumulative cases since March. These cases also represent .002 percent of the 2,614,383 COVD positive cases in the state of Florida, and an even smaller percentage of the 3.5M children under age 14 in Florida. CDC also reported a significant number of those unfortunate children has underlying conditions, such as asthma, putting them at greater risk, all in all concluding that the risk to children is not that great and draconian mask measures might not be a good idea. So, yeah, a little research and critical thinking, and basic math, helps as opposed to accepting on face value the assertions of the media, which are red meat for some folks.

        • zhombre

          July 31, 2021 at 8:46 am

          CORRECTION: CDC did not conclude anything about minimal risk to children, merely presented stats. My personal conclusion is that the risk to children, while not be dismissed entirely, is not as great compared to other age groups, and would be detrimental to child socialization, health, and development in other ways.

          • zhombre

            July 31, 2021 at 9:17 am

            * .. mandatory masking would be detrimental …

          • Ocean Joe

            July 31, 2021 at 10:49 am

            Don’t children live tend to live with older people, say parents, and the occasional grandparent? If a local school district sees a problem, it is reckless to tie their hands.

        • zhombre

          July 31, 2021 at 11:18 am

          Yeah Oceana Josie, that is true, and the adults should be vaccinated. The elderly are especially susceptible to COVID, which is why DeSantis, so reviled by the abject imbeciles on this site, prioritized the elderly in vaccination. Largely succeeding: if I am not mistaken, vax rate for over 65 is the highest in the state.

          • Oceana Josie

            July 31, 2021 at 2:15 pm

            Most parents of school age children are far below 65. The vaccination rates there not so great, but getting better. What he is doing, with a blanket directive, two weeks before school even starts, with rising cases…is reckless.
            Of course as soon as kids leave school they don’t wear masks anyway.

          • zhombre

            July 31, 2021 at 3:37 pm

            I was thinking of multi-generational households, or kids visiting or being care for by grandparents while the parents work.

          • Tjb

            July 31, 2021 at 5:39 pm

            Could you give me the link to the Brown University Study that DeSantis quoted, if you have it. Also, does the report address the new variant?

        • Tjb

          August 1, 2021 at 2:21 pm

          Thanks. Two concerns I have about the study. It has yet to be reviewed by peers and it was done before the new variant

  • Jennifer

    July 31, 2021 at 4:10 am

    Since Ron Deathsantis got his medical degree while we were all in lockdown, we should call his office to schedule doctor appointments with him. Ask for pap smears, mamograms, school physicals, etc. He seems to know sooooooo much, he must be a doctor, RIGHT?

  • Bryan Yarnell

    July 31, 2021 at 5:13 am

    You can clearly see the communist socialists whining because they can’t impose their rule on others.

    • Tom Palmer

      July 31, 2021 at 8:29 am

      That would be the Republicans.

      • zhombre

        July 31, 2021 at 9:15 am

        LOL! Yeah go with that assertion. Compare the actions of DeSantis with those of Widmer, Cuomo, Newsom, Murphy and Garcetti.

        • tjb

          August 2, 2021 at 12:59 pm

          Have you looked at the statistics for the number of Covid 19 death by the state? Florida has more death per thousand than CA, MI, and NY. Again, Florida is the epicenter of Covid 19. Maybe Cuomo and Newson can help DeSantis to bring down the Covid death rate,
          If you look at Michigan, their death rate from Covid is extremely low.

  • Tom

    July 31, 2021 at 7:57 am

    Again, there is no study and or analysis tying children, kids to Covid. Furthermore, masks not identified as preventing Covid in children. All analysis speaks to detrimental effects upon children. Once again America’s Governor is on course. Nikki Fraud says she doesn’t support lockdowns, so Gov DeSantis wins again. What a bunch of partisan Dem baby hacks. Wah, WAh. Cry me a river.

    • Tom Palmer

      July 31, 2021 at 8:30 am

      You might want to check out the high number of children who have died of Covid in Indonesia.

      • zhombre

        July 31, 2021 at 8:50 am

        Florida isn’t Indonesia. There may be a number of public health and socioeconomic factors contributing to the grim numbers there.

    • Tjb

      July 31, 2021 at 5:52 pm

      Keep up the misinformation Tom. LOL

  • Andrew Finn

    July 31, 2021 at 8:06 am

    Our idiot governor and his family should be on the next list of people who have gotten the virus. Think he would change his tune then ??

    • Tom

      July 31, 2021 at 8:25 am

      Seriously Deranged!
      Take two aspirin and call the Liberal scream phone tree Tjb, Palmer, Phil, Hoffmann, and Red Sonja. Cry me a river.
      DeSantis wins in 22 with 55%.
      Read it and weep.

      • Tom Palmer

        July 31, 2021 at 8:32 am

        He’s certainly got the wingnut vote.

  • Tom

    July 31, 2021 at 8:10 am

    Again, there is no study and or analysis tying children, kids to Covid. Furthermore, masks not identified as preventing Covid in children. All analysis speaks to detrimental effects upon children. Once again America’s Governor is on course. Nikki Fraud says she doesn’t support lockdowns, so Gov DeSantis wins again. What a bunch of partisan Dem baby hacks. Wah, WAh. Cry me a river. Go buy some Hunter Biden coloring books. LMAO

    • Tjb

      July 31, 2021 at 5:50 pm

      Damn Tom, you love to spread misinformation. Just a reminder, you love to declare DeSantis a winner in the upcoming election, but in 2018, he only defeated Gillum by less than a half a percentage point. Just think, if a weak candidate came close to a win, just think what a good democratic candidate will do. (Knowing you, your first response = there are no good libtard candidates)

  • tk

    July 31, 2021 at 10:31 am

    Have masks and no masks sections in school. Then the students/parents and teachers who want to be protected can be, and the ones who don’t won’t.

    • GG

      August 1, 2021 at 7:09 pm

      Now you’re talking! This makes the most sense. Want to be maskless? Go join the other Darwin award contendors over in that corner and good luck to you.

  • rickfrombrooklyn

    August 1, 2021 at 11:37 am

    The “scientific” linchpin to negate CDC guidance in Gov. DeSatis’ Exectuvie Order No. 21-175 is that as-yet not peer reviewed study from Brown University: COVID-19 Mitigation Practices and COVID-19 Rates in Schools: Report on Data from Florida, New York and Massachusetts
    Here is the formal reaction to Gov. DeSantis’ cynical misuse of that study from its authors:
    “We did not consult with Governor DeSantis on these issues. Our paper is currently a pre-print, undergoing peer review. It relies on data from the 2020-2021 school year, prior to the emergence of the more contagious delta variant. Current CDC guidance, taking into account the current virus situation and all available data on masking, suggests masking for all K-12 students and staff, regardless of vaccination status.”
    If you Google and read the study, you’ll see it says, clearly: “We would emphasize that in general this literature suggests in-person school can be operated safely with appropriate mitigation, which typically includes universal masking. It would be premature to draw any alternative conclusions about this question based on this preliminary data.”
    Our governor is grasping at straws and weaponizing misinformation while pediatric ICUs are starting to fill up. He is a disgrace.

Comments are closed.


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