Aug 11, 2021 - COVID

Florida and Texas schools defy governors' orders banning mask mandates

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during an event at the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside on August 10

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during an event in Surfside, Florida, on Tuesday. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Broward County School Board has become the latest in Florida to defy the state's mask mandate ban, voting on Tuesday to keep the requirement for students and staff.

Why it matters: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has threatened to withhold the pay of superintendents and school board members who defy his executive order barring schools from issuing mask mandates, as Florida experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

  • The Florida Department of Education has already sent a letter to the Broward County School Board following the 8-1 vote in favor of the mandate.

The big picture: Several school districts in Florida are pushing back on DeSantis' ban. It's a similar situation in Texas, where cases are also surging.

  • Two school districts in Dallas and Bexar counties were granted by a judge on Tuesday the "temporary power to issue mask mandates" despite Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's order barring the health measure, per the Texas Tribune.

What they're saying: Broward County School Board chair Rosalind Osgood said during a meeting on the matter Tuesday that they "can't ignore this pandemic," per CNN.

  • "It's deadly, and it's getting worse instead of better and the more we don't use masks, the more we position the mutation of this virus to grow," Osgood added.

The other side: Florida Department of Education commissioner Richard Corcoran wrote in his letter that he was launching an investigation into the matter and demanded the board provide a written response by 5 p.m. this Friday.

  • "This letter is sent to express my grave concern regarding your district's significant neglect in response to the recently adopted Emergency Rule," he wrote.
  • He said the department's emergency order banning mask mandates made clear that such policies imposed by a district or school "'must allow for a parent or legal guardian of the student to opt-out the student from wearing a face covering or mask.'"

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