Broward County Public Schools vote to keep mask mandate despite Florida governor’s order to leave masks to parents

After listening to 48 speakers and reviewing more than 350 written comments from local residents, the council voted 8 to 1 to keep the mask’s mandate in place, allowing exceptions for health and safety concerns only, according to a press release. of the school division. Schools in Broward County began school Tuesday.

“You can’t ignore this pandemic. It’s deadly, and it’s getting worse instead of getting better and the more we don’t use masks, the more we position the mutation of this virus to grow,” said School board chair Rosalind Osgood said at the special board meeting on Tuesday.

She then told CNN that she was unwilling to “take the risk of playing Russian roulette” with children who cannot get vaccinated.

Requests to remove the mask’s warrant “will be considered due to medical needs, individual education plans or Section 504 accommodations,” the school division statement said.

Broward’s latest vote set up a showdown with Gov. Ron DeSantis, who in July issued an executive order requiring the state’s health and education departments to create rules allowing parents – not schools – decide whether their children should wear masks. The ordinance effectively bans mask warrants in school districts.

“It can be assumed that the decision by members of the Broward school board to violate the right of parents to make decisions for their own children will lead to a similar response,” Gov.’s press secretary Christina Pushaw told CNN.

The governor’s office said Monday that the state’s Board of Education may decide to withhold salaries from superintendents and school board members who violate the governor’s order.

“The point is, parents are in the best position to know what’s best for their children,” DeSantis said at a press conference Tuesday. “Our policy, based on the Parents Bill of Rights, is that it is the parents’ decision under Florida law at this point.”

The school board said in its press release that it “allows the Acting General Counsel and the Acting District Superintendent to retain the services of an outside lawyer to assess and take legal action to challenge” the decree. by DeSantis.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran wrote in a letter to the Broward County Superintendent advising them that a non-compliance investigation had been initiated.

“If this issue is not resolved by submitting documentation establishing compliance with the law, the measure of maximum liability provided for by law will be imposed,” Corcoran wrote.

Osgood said she and the school board “refuse to be intimidated from a parochial self-interest perspective, where we are forced to place a monetary value on people’s lives.”

“We have concluded that people’s lives are priceless,” she said. “That’s too big a chance to take when you’re doing the cost-benefit analysis. It is never okay to risk your child’s life. “

Broward County School Board Acting Superintendent Vickie Cartwright wears a mask as she listens to public comments at a Broward County School Board meeting on Tuesday.
Several lawsuits have since been filed to challenge the constitutionality of the decree. Several school districts are considering mask warrants and a few have said masks will be needed, with a few exceptions.

Other school districts that defied DeSantis’ decree and instituted a mask warrant include Leon County, which includes Tallahassee; Alachua County, which includes Gainesville; Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa; and Orange County, which includes Orlando.

Corcoran also sent letters of non-compliance investigation to superintendents in Leon and Alachua counties.

Corcoran’s letters indicated that he could recommend to the state Board of Education that the Department of Education “withhold funds in an amount equal to the salaries of the superintendent and all members of the school board.”

“There is no room for error or leniency when it comes to ensuring compliance with policies that allow parents and guardians to make choices about children’s health and education. “, we read in Corcoran’s letter.

CNN’s Rebekah Riess and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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