The Broward County School District voted to remove its mask mandate for high schools effective November 1. The mandate will be maintained in elementary and middle schools, but high school students will still be encouraged to wear masks.
“I’m proud of the School Board of Broward County for standing firm on keeping mask mandates in place for Broward County Public Schools’ elementary and middle school students, and strongly encouraging high school students to wear masks,” said Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco.
Critics of mask mandates have noted school districts have lacked data-driven metrics related to when masks would return to being optional. For example, Leon County Schools, who recently decided to return to mask optional with a parent opt-out form, did not provide what data it is using to determine if it is safe to do so.
Broward County Schools, however, said it would revisit the mask mandate issue when Broward County had a 66 percent COVID vaccination rate and when the COVID positivity rate fell below 3 percent for a 10-day period.
“Given the current conditions, it is recommended the District eliminate its face covering mandate at this time and follow the Florida Department of Health’s Emergency Rule regarding quarantining, but continue to strongly encourage the use of face coverings and quarantining practices to avoid any ‘spikes’ in positivity and until such time as the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer a community health risk,” according to a document from the Broward School Board.
Broward County has been one of the most vocal school districts opposed to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ mask mandate ban, and it has received praise from the President Joe Biden administration for defying state law.
Earlier this year, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) opted to withhold the salaries of the school board members for their non-compliance to the state’s mask mandate ban. In response, the U.S. Department of Education (U.S. DOE) paid for the fines through a grant program called “Project SAFE.”
“We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, not punishing them. We stand with the dedicated educators in Alachua and across the country doing the right thing to protect their school communities, and with today’s first-ever award under Project SAFE, we are further enabling educators to continue that critical work,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cordona said in a statement.
The state of Florida has maintained that it is fighting to protect the rights of parents over whether or not their child should be masked in schools.
“We’re going to fight to protect parents’ rights to make health care decisions for their children,” said Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran when the salary sanctions were announced. “They know what is best for their children. What’s unacceptable is the politicians who have raised their right hands and pledged, under oath, to uphold the Constitution but are not doing so. Simply said, elected officials cannot pick and choose what laws they want to follow.”
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