‘COVID-19 harassment’ school voucher applies to parents seeking mask mandates, too
A new study settles the debate over masks in school. Spoiler alert: They work.

Teenager in protective mask going to school in autumn
The Governor's Office highlighted school mask requirements as 'COVID-19 harassment.'

Students in mask-optional schools could transfer to private schools requiring masks under the Department of Education’s emergency mask rules.

The department’s “COVID-19 harassment” rules, adopted Friday, were largely reported as the state’s way to give an alternative to parents who say a public school district’s mask-wearing requirements amount to harassment of their children. However, the DeSantis administration said Monday that the voucher emergency rules work both ways. That’s despite the administration highlighting it as option for parents seeking more relaxed mask policies.

“If parents wanted their kids to go to school with a mask mandate and there was a private school that had one, they can use the Hope Scholarship to send their kids there. It goes both ways,” Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told Florida Politics.

Private schools aren’t bound by the same rules the state imposed on public schools, though because the schools are private, it’s not immediately clear which ones are mandating mask usage among students.

Using the Hope Scholarship, typically used to protect students from bullying and harassment, to avoid “COVID-19 harassment” provides flexibility for parents, she continued.

“It’s really about giving power to the parents to make the best choices for their own kids, because every kid is different,” Pushaw said. “That’s one reason why the Governor doesn’t believe in these blanket mandates, because they can be detrimental to some kids. But some parents might feel it’s the best choice for their kids.”

The issue of mask requirements in schools flared up in recent weeks as Florida sees record-breaking hospitalizations and case loads for COVID-19, attributed to a spike in the highly contagious delta variant. Unlike in previous waves, more children are being hospitalized for COVID-19.

Classes start this week in several public school districts.

The Board of Education adopted the emergency rule after Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered a prohibition on mask mandates in schools late last month.

The rule includes a definition for “COVID-19 harassment” as targeted conduct against students stemming from a school district’s COVID-19 protocols. The list of prohibited protocols include mask requirements, separating or isolating students or providing COVID-19 testing requirements.

Such protocols “pose a health or educational danger” to students and lead to learning loss, according to the Board of Education.

DeSantis tied the order to the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” which he signed into law in June. Similarly, board members stressed during Friday’s meeting that the order is about protecting parental choice and students.

In effect, the Hope Scholarship rules would allow parents to avoid the state-imposed mask-optional rule.

Several school districts have announced they will require masks in schools. A St. Pete Polls survey, commissioned by Florida Politics last week, found that 62% of likely voters support mask mandates.

The Board of Education’s rule works in tandem with a Department of Health rule requiring schools to let parents or guardians “opt-out the student from wearing a face covering or mask.” Surgeon General Scott Rivkees signed that rule Friday, along with rules for COVID-19 symptoms, positives and exposures.

DeSantis and the administration stand firm in their threat to cut funding for school boards that require masks for students. The Board of Education could move to withhold the salary of district superintendents or school board members who impose mask requirements, Pushaw said.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


10 comments

  • Sonja Fitch

    August 10, 2021 at 5:03 am

    Wtf! Duffus Desantis is willingly slaughtering Floridians and our children. LOCK Him up!!!!!! Now!!!

    • Sandy M

      August 18, 2021 at 8:52 am

      WTF? Lock yourself up and hide since you don’t want any freedoms! DeSantis is ensuring that parents’ rights are not taken away by a political agenda. Masks for children are bacterial-laden cloths that are touched by dirty fingers hundreds of times a day. More children have committed suicide because of Covid restrictions like lockdowns and masks than have died from Covid. Why don’t you educate yourself about the truth??

  • Phil Morton

    August 10, 2021 at 7:01 am

    So every parent in Nassau County can send their kids to Duval County schools. Have I got that correct Christina?

  • PeterH

    August 10, 2021 at 10:58 am

    Two weeks before schools are to open and DeSantis wants parents to find a private school that does not require masks. Republican Bobby Jindal’s claim that the GOP is veering toward “the party of stupid” is finally being realized.

    Good luck with that!

    After reading about “no mask mandates anywhere” idiocy coming from Republicans Rand Paul and Ted Cruz …… I think that today’s GQP is reaching the bottom we’ve all been anticipating. Republican Marjorie Taylor Green, another ridiculous arm chair epidemiologist, has been suspended from Twitter for pleading that the FDA should ban the vaccines because they don’t work. Will someone please tell her that 99.99% of the current crop of hospitalized Covid patients are unvaccinated. Jeeze our Republican elected officials are stupid.

    Authentic American conservatives who want a two party system of governance should join like minded conservatives at the Lincoln Project or other “never Trump” organizations. Today’s GQP lacks the credibility it championed 50 years ago.

  • Matthew Lusk

    August 10, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    Home school parents should be given an allotment of the public school funds per Capita for their own school age kids– as long as the education fund is paying for what amounts to other people’s kids.

  • Matthew Lusk

    August 10, 2021 at 2:10 pm

    True, not a thing in the world wrong with parents getting a voucher to have their kid attend an ALL MASK private school. That is the power behind true diversity of choice of options. Let parents decide where the money goes for their child and the marketplace performs accordingly with better results. It’s the American way. It is called Freedom. Freedom from tyranny and government coercion.

  • Dr. P-J

    August 11, 2021 at 2:57 pm

    Republicans – they are willing to kill their own so why would they worry about killing you and yours? It doesn’t have to make sense.
    It’s hard to win an argument with a smart person but it is impossible to win an argument with a stupid person.

    • Sandy M

      August 18, 2021 at 8:53 am

      WTF? Lock yourself up and hide since you don’t want any freedoms! DeSantis is ensuring that parents’ rights are not taken away by a political agenda. Masks for children are bacterial-laden cloths that are touched by dirty fingers hundreds of times a day. More children have committed suicide because of Covid restrictions like lockdowns and masks than have died from Covid. Why don’t you educate yourself about the truth??

  • Lulu C

    August 12, 2021 at 9:04 am

    Where do Ron’s children go to school? Do they go to a private school that requires masks? Ask the quesion Floridians.

  • Lulu C

    August 12, 2021 at 9:05 am

    question

Comments are closed.


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