Governor DeSantis praised Florida parents’ “freedom to choose” before signing an executive order (EO 21-175) Friday, stopping Florida schools from issuing mask mandates for students.
The executive order cites HB 241, known as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” that expanded upon the rights parents have regarding their children’s education, health, and upbringing. For example, the decision to not make their kids wear a mask.
At a press conference addressing the emergency order, DeSantis said, “I just want to say, in Florida, there will be no lockdowns, there will be no school closures… no restrictions, and no mandates in the state of Florida. Floridians have been, are, and will remain, free to choose what’s best for themselves and their families, and we will protect their right to work. We’ll protect the right of businesses to operate, and we will protect the right of our kids to attend school in person.”
He added, “The one issue where we are seeing a potential for a mandate regarding local government, is with the force masking of school children in our upcoming school year… Very few school districts are requiring that, and most of them I think wisely are saying that this is a parents’ decision to make about what’s best for their individual kids.”
According to a press release from DeSantis’ office, the executive order is “in response to several Florida school boards considering or implementing mask mandates in their schools after the Biden Administration issued unscientific and inconsistent recommendations that school-aged children wear masks.”
The press release from the governor’s office includes and additional statement by DeSantis that says, “The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day. Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children.”
EO 21-175 will direct the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) to collaborate in establishing rules and penalties regarding parents’ rights. Included in the order is the penalty school districts will face if it is determined that it broke the law.
The order states, “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.”
It further states, “The Florida Commissioner of Education shall pursue all legal means available to ensure school districts adhere to Florida law, including but not limited to withholding state funds from noncompliant school boards violating any rules or agency action [by the FDOH and the FDOE].”
In addition to state funds, school districts can also be withheld from “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.”
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Casey Owens is a contributing writer for The Florida Capital Star. Follow him on Twitter at @cowensreports. Email tips to [email protected]