Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order on Friday that prohibits public schools in the state from mandating masks for students and provides parents greater power in making health-care decisions for their children. The move comes in response to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending that students and faculty in K-12 schools wear facemasks for the upcoming school year.
“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,” said DeSantis in a statement. “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.”
“And I just want to say in Florida, there will be no lockdowns. There will be no school closures. There will be no restrictions or mandates in the state of Florida,” he added.
I signed an executive order directing @HealthyFla to enter rulemaking in collaboration with @EducationFL to protect parents' freedom to choose whether their children wear masks in schools. https://t.co/94ZMqObRas
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) July 30, 2021
Effective immediately, the new directive requires the Florida Departments of Health and Education to ensure that any school safety protocols taken to address COVID-19 must not “violate Floridians’ constitutional freedoms,” “violate parents’ right under Florida law to make health care decisions for their minor children,” and “Protect children with disabilities or health conditions who would be harmed by certain protocols such as face masking requirements.”
The order from DeSantis also provides the Florida Commissioner of Education the ability to take any necessary legal action to ensure school districts follow Florida law, including “withholding state funds from noncompliant school boards violating any rules or agency action.” Moreover, the Republican governor has signaled that he is open to calling a special legislative session to codify a ban on school mask mandates into law.
“Governor DeSantis has always been a leading advocate for individual rights and liberties,” DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told The Federalist. “As a father of three young children, he feels strongly that parents know their children best and have their kids’ interests at heart, so every parent should be free to make the decisions that are right for their own kids.”
“Some parents will choose to mask their children if they are more comfortable doing that, but others will follow the science and data that shows masking can do more harm than good for many kids,” she added.
Pushaw later went on to cite data from a comprehensive study conducted by Brown University, which found no significant difference in COVID-19 rates between Florida school districts that required masks and those that did not.
“Some districts require masks for students and staff, some for staff only and some for neither,” the study read. “In all analyses, rates are similar for staff in districts with mask mandates for both students and staff versus those with staff-only mandates. Further, we do not see a correlation between mask mandates and COVID-19 rates among students in either adjusted or unadjusted analyses.”