Broward County Schools set up showdown with Gov. DeSantis, will require student masks

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Broward schools implemented one of the strictest mask policies in the state.

Broward County Schools on Tuesday stuck to its original vote to require students to mask up at school, setting up a showdown with the Governor after he issued an order against mandatory masking in public schools.

The 8-1 vote reaffirmed the School Board’s July 28 vote that required students come to school with their faces covered. Two days after that original vote, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order giving parents the final say on whether their children come to school masked. School districts that require masks could be penalized financially, the order said.

School Board members Tuesday decried the Governor’s emergency order, saying it undermines local control and their ability to make rules based on local circumstances. Right now, the positivity rate for new COVID-19 cases are higher than they were when schools were shut down, and hospitals are brimming with sick patients, School Board members pointed out. Masks are the best weapon available right now, they said.

“Now is the time to set the tone,” said School Board member Sarah Leonardi, “be the adults in the room.”

The school district could lose some of its state aid, according to the order. Recently, though, the Governor’s spokeswoman said children would not be penalized if districts mandate student masks, but superintendents and School Board members could face losing their pay.

Broward’s decision, reached after hours of deliberations and more than a dozen speakers, makes the county’s mask policy one of the strictest in the state. Other districts, though, have moved to defy the Governor’s order in some fashion.

Alachua County is requiring students to be masked for at least the first two weeks of school. Leon County public schools will require all Pre-K through eighth-grade students to wear masks. Miami-Dade schools are requiring students to wear masks on school buses. Public schools in Duval, Hillsborough, Lee, Orange and Seminole counties are all requiring masks, but parents can fill out paperwork to opt out.

About 50 people attended Broward County’s special School Board meeting, holding signs, and one even wearing an aluminum foil hat. Members of the public had to wait outside for their turn to speak and were wanded before they were allowed inside. Some called required masking “child abuse,” while others said it was child abuse to subject vulnerable children to their unmasked classmates.

“My child is coming to school without a mask,” said Deidre Ruth, a mother of a 7-year-old who would not identify which Broward County city she lives in. “As a public school, what right do you have to deny my child an education because of a mask?”

Others, among the majority who spoke, applauded the district for standing up to protect children, particularly those younger than 12 years old, who can’t be vaccinated against the disease.

“The eyes of the country are on you,” said Lisa Maxwell, executive director of the Broward Principals’ and Assistants’ Association and a mother of a student, noting that not everyone wants to do fire drills, or believe that fires present some danger. “Sometimes we ask our children to do things to be safe.”

The Broward School Board also voted to engage outside legal counsel to challenge the Governor’s order.

State Sen. Gary Farmer of Fort Lauderdale urged the board to stand up to bullying from the Governor, saying the order exceeds DeSantis’ constitutional authority.

“The Governor doesn’t get to trump your decision,” Farmer said. “It’s an executive order that was a gross overstep and abuse of power by the Governor. He has no authority to direct these state agencies to engage in rulemaking.”

After DeSantis’ order, the Education Department issued subsequent rules that will allow students who don’t want to wear masks to get vouchers so they can transfer to private schools. DeSantis’ office later clarified the order also applies to students who want to go to a school with more strict mask requirements.

School Board Chairwoman Rosalind Osgood teared up as she talked about being kept up late at night, worrying about the position the Governor’s order has put the School Board in.

“I feel very angry about being bullied into this position,” she said.

Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ spokeswoman,  responded: “The only bully here is the politician who wants to take away parents’ rights to choose what is best for their own children. And that is not Governor DeSantis.”

Later, Farmer applauded the School Board’s decision.

“The School Board sent a message today that our community will not yield to the tyrant in Tallahassee at the expense of our children’s lives, and will continue to follow the science rather than petty partisan politics. I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in this fight,” he said.

The decision is temporary and will be reviewed in a number of weeks. School starts in Broward County on Aug. 18.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]


9 comments

  • Ed

    August 10, 2021 at 6:25 pm

    The People’s Republic of Broward County. The refuge for many New Yorkers, New Jersey, and other high tax states. They flee those areas because of high taxes and excess government yet vote the same way when they come to Florida. People’s District #23 is represented by none other than Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Broward is truly a lost cause.

  • Andrew Finn

    August 10, 2021 at 6:26 pm

    Way to go Broward County !!!!!! Some well overdue pushback against Emperor DeSantis !!!!!! Here in Pinellas County, they are too afraid to go against “His Majesty” to do what you are doing. We will take good care of them come election time. Meanwhile – congratulations for “sticking to your guns” and telling Emperor DeSantis “where to stick it” !!!!!!

    • Ed

      August 10, 2021 at 6:28 pm

      Mr. Pinellas County claims to be a Republican. That is some funny stuff there Andrew

      • Zhombre

        August 11, 2021 at 11:00 am

        He’s a Vichy Republican, a hate-filled little pustule compulsively fulminating against DeSantis.

  • Matthew Lusk

    August 11, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    Everybody know cheap masks are absolutely useless against viruses. What a bunch of group think idiots. They are like 98 pound weaklings hiding in the pack. They are effeminate ding dongs.

  • Matthew Lusk

    August 11, 2021 at 1:43 pm

    Mandatory mask mandates are just conditioning for vaccine passports. The authentic NAZI Quandt family , Billionaire owners of Entrust, The family who used thousands of dying slave laboers during WWII, just snagged the UK vaccine passport contract. Entrust will be using the US Post office data, US new York bank data, along with 600 organizations around the world. The NAZI underground is very real. They hang out at top levels in big banks, pharmaceuticals,,chemicals, and intelligent organizations. The Bush crime syndicate is NAZI. The Clintons work for the Bushes, albeit now retired. Don’t underestimate the NAZI underground in America!

  • Matthew Lusk

    August 11, 2021 at 1:51 pm

    Street level mask Marxists are just useful idiots for the Nazi/Jesuit alliance. Follow the money!

  • Djea3

    August 18, 2021 at 6:54 pm

    Any forced use of experimental drugs that have killed at least one person is murder according to the Nuremberg Trials and international courts at The Hague. One may not be forced to take any experimental drug and that is what C-19 vaccine is.
    With regard to the masks. If my kid was going to school and the school asked me for proof of vaccination, my answer would be HIPPA. The school can ask if my child is vaccinated and I do NOT have to answer. I also do not have to provide proof at all, that would violate HIPPA. I also do not need a Doctor’s note regarding HIPPA, UNLESS that note notifies the school that to ask is a violation of HIPPA.
    Sue the HELL out of the School if they ask or demand anything. The Emergency has been declared OVER. The school can not declare its own emergency.
    With regard to them being responsible for the well-being of the students….not true, never has been. Kids get beat up by kids, cops and even teachers at school, kids get arrested on school grounds for protecting themselves from bullies. This is an absurd statement by the district.

Comments are closed.


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