Local education officials in Broward County, Florida, have now opted to leave in place a mandate to wear face masks when the school year begins, placing them in direct opposition to the state’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who has ordered school districts to make mask-wearing optional and whose office has threatened to withhold the salaries of local officials who impose mask mandates anyway. Now, the Broward County School Board has “also authorized the district to hire outside legal counsel to evaluate and challenge the state’s new rules allowing parents to decide if their children should wear masks inside schools,” according to the Miami Herald.
Thus, a legal challenge from local officials against DeSantis over his efforts to ban mask mandates could be on the way. He’s already been sued by a group of Florida parents, who claim that his order targeting mask mandates “violates a provision of the state constitution that requires public officials to ensure schools are safe for students,” as Bloomberg has explained. As of this Wednesday, Florida leads the country in average daily hospitalizations with COVID-19, and many of those who have gone into hospitals in Florida with COVID-19 could face serious long-term effects. No matter these circumstances, DeSantis has remained opposed to basic safety measures.
As for the threat of withheld salaries for local school officials in Florida who put mask mandates in place, Broward School Board Chair Rosalind Osgood said that she’d be sticking by what she felt was the best course of action for local students, no matter DeSantis’s antics. She commented as follows:
‘I have a moral responsibility to be my brother and sister’s keepers, even if it means that my salary is taken away… Even if it means I’m no longer in this seat, my conscience will be at peace because I can sleep at night knowing that I didn’t put parochial self-interest before people.’
Broward County school officials initially approved a mandate to wear face masks before DeSantis’s order seeking to block such mandates, and on Tuesday, the board formally voted to leave the mandate in place, with exceptions allowed only in the case of a doctor’s note or an individual education plan for a particular student. Broward School Board member Nora Rupert expressed sentiments similar to those shared by Osgood. She pointedly commented as follows:
‘Lose our salary? Bring it… Bring it. When you put that out there, it makes me work harder for our schoolchildren and families.’
Broward County education officials aren’t the only such figures in the state of Florida who’ve decided to put mask mandates in place for their local jurisdictions. Officials in Leon and Alachua Counties have done the same, while other localities have mask policies in place that allow for a broader range of exemptions.