Disobeying Gov. DeSantis, Palm Beach School Board mandates masks for students

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The mandate will stand for at least 90 days.

Palm Beach public school students will have to wear masks when classes resume next week, as the county School Board late Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to require facial coverings in defiance of Gov. Ron DeSantisexecutive order against mask mandates.

About 11:30 p.m., School Board members voted 6-1 to join fellow South Florida counties Broward and Miami-Dade in adopting mask rules for all students when school starts Monday. Unlike those and other counties, however, schools in Palm Beach will not offer parental opt-out options, even for most medical purposes.

There is one exception to the rule: Students can forgo facial coverings if they qualify for exemptions under federal disability laws, including the American Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Palm Beach school faculty were already required to wear masks before the Wednesday decision.

The mandate will be in place for at least 90 days. Board Chair Frank Barbeieri Jr., Vice Chair Karen Brill and members Marcia Andrews, Alexandria Ayala, Debra Robinson and Erica Whitfield approved of the move.

“I don’t want kids to die on my watch,” Andrews said, adding that she was willing to “take whatever punishment” the state tries to impose if it makes “a difference in saving children’s lives.”

Barbara McQuinn, who voted no, argued the board was “starting from scratch” to rush the mandate.

The Palm Beach School Board vote and a similar one in Hillsborough County, which also happened Wednesday, came one day after the Florida Board of Education ruled the school districts of Alachua and Broward counties, which previously adopted mask mandates, had violated state law, including the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which DeSantis signed into law in June.

The state board voted to penalize the counties, but stopped short — for now — of sanctioning the two districts or withholding funding and administrator pay, punitive measures DeSantis’ administration has threatened. That threat lost most of its teeth last week after President Joe Biden’s administration offered to cover salaries and costs with federal relief funds.

Biden went even further Wednesday by ordering U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to “take additional steps to protect our children,” including “legal action if appropriate against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators.”

With the highly transmissible delta variant accounting for nearly all new cases of COVID-19 in the United States, federal health agencies and medical experts across the nation have advised the use of masks to stem its spread.

The delta variant also appears to cause more severe symptoms in children than did prior strains of the virus. As Florida Politics reported, hospitals in Broward this week entirely ran out of child intensive care units while on the verge of reaching full capacity broadly.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


4 comments

  • Ron Ogden

    August 19, 2021 at 10:33 am

    A yet polls show parents want the right to choose. There are a lot of changes coming to Florida school boards next fall, because their autocracy is on full display to parents who prefer choice.

  • Alex

    August 19, 2021 at 11:12 am

    We can’t allow our far right nutcase Governor to endanger our children for politics.

    Period.

    • Mark Murray

      August 23, 2021 at 2:59 pm

      If you believe in freedom you are a nutcase?
      I guess I am too then with that reasoning.

  • Mark Murray

    August 23, 2021 at 2:57 pm

    The rights are there to protect us from mob and or elite rule. Medical decisions are to be made by the parent not by autocrat elites..Punish the school districts that do not follow the law.

Comments are closed.


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