On Friday, Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis announced he will sign an executive order to issue emergency rules to protect the rights of parents, leaving the decision of children wearing masks in schools to the children’s parents.
DeSantis, the father of three young children, said at a press conference at a Cape Coral restaurant, “We want to be able to choose, and we want to be able to teach our children without our faces covered.”
On Wednesday, the school board Broward County in Florida defied DeSantis’s strong position against mask mandates for school children, deciding it would require masks when school starts next month, as reported by local outlet WLRN.
DeSantis’ office informed The Daily Wire:
We had hoped that all school boards would follow the science and decide to have a normal, mask-optional school year. It is disappointing that Broward School Board prioritized virtue-signaling over parental choice, kids’ well-being, and the science.
- The data indicates children face extremely low risk from COVID
- Moreover, empirical evidence from schools last year has shown that the existence of a mask mandate is not correlated with a school’s COVID-19 rate
- Many kids, especially those with special needs like hearing loss, autism, and sensory issues, struggle to learn and engage in a classroom setting with masks. Experts have raised concerns about the impact of masks on mental and emotional health, as well as socialization, speech, and language learning. It is also a concern that masks worn by children for 8 hours a day, taken off and put back on, can harbor potentially harmful bacteria.
At the press conference on Friday, DeSantis stated, “If you have been listening to some of the murmurs going around, particularly in Washington lately, if you listen to some of this stuff that’s being percolated around the CDC, there’s a movement to try to impose more restrictions on the American people,” DeSantis stated on Friday. “And I just want to say in Florida, there will be not lockdowns. There will be no school closures. There will be 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 continued. “And we don’t have mandates; we won’t. The one issue where we are seeing a potential for a mandate regarding local government is with the forced masking of schoolchildren in our upcoming school year. As of today, very few school districts are requiring that. Most of them wisely are saying that it is a parent’s decision to make about what’s best for their individual kids.”
“But nevertheless we have a lot of push from the CDC and others to make every single person, kids, staff, have to wear masks all day regardless of their immune status, regardless of the effect it has on their educational experience,” he noted. “And that would be a huge mistake.”
He recalled, “If you look back, we were the only large state in the country last year to have an in-person school year for the whole school year. There were many that had massive amounts of their students who didn’t have access to in-person education. We thought it was very important. We looked at the data; we understood that schools were low-risk environments and that closing them was devastating to parents and families and was something that we could not allow to happen in the state of Florida. So we needed to stand up for our students; we needed to stand up for our parents. We did.”
“Now Florida has never mandated masks for the public or for schools. Last school year, though, a majority of school districts required the students to wear masks,” he pointed out. “Other schools districts, I think between 20 and 25, did not, and many charter and private schools did not require masks. And so, what were the results? A study out of Brown University looked at case rates at schools in Florida, Massachusetts and New York and they found — this is a very credible study — no correlation of case rates and mask mandates. In other words, you had schools that did not have mandates that had similar outcomes as the ones that did require it.”
“And if you think about it, these kids are in school. They have the masks on,” DeSantis asserted. “When they go out of school and hang out, do you think they’re wearing the masks when they’re at each other’s houses? Of course not.”
“So it’s terribly uncomfortable and it’s something that a lot of parents have been frustrated about; a lot of students have been frustrated about,” he continued. “I remember I’ve had kids come up to me saying, ‘Oh, I don’t want to wear the mask.’ But we can say, in Florida, the 2021 school year, the school districts that did not require masks did not perform statistically different from those who did. The charter schools and private schools that didn’t require it also had similar outcomes. We have to look at the data even if the data said something else, that doesn’t mean you mandate because there’s still individual wellbeing and freedom at stake.”
“One of the things that’s frustrating is there’s no end in sight to what these policies will do,” he said of the CDC. “There’s no off-ramp. We were told that the off-ramp was vaccination; now we’re told that’s not going to be the case and yet you’re going to have to do masking; you may have to do restriction and potentially severe forms of mitigation which we know will have a devastating impact on so many people’s lives and livelihoods and freedoms. So, CDC’s policies, by doing this so ham-handedly, by not looking at things like this Brown study, it really shows a callous disregard for the physical, emotional, and academic well-being of our children. They need to be put first.”
“We have this whole year and a half where so many people in our society wanted to put the kids last,” he said. “They wanted to impose the most extreme mitigation on the kids that were the least likely to face any negative harm from this. And obviously who were in very development stages where this could really do a lot of potential damage. The forced masking, it has harmed students.”
He concluded, “The question is … shouldn’t this be something that the parent is best, to evaluate the effect that this would have on their children?”