The heads of Broward County Public Schools and the school board say the district’s mask mandate for students will stay in place, despite the recent ruling that upholds Governor Ron DeSantis’s ban on such mandates.
But the Broward school district is standing its ground, saying it will not be reversing its mask mandate for students. Broward is one of 13 school districts in Florida that have defied the governor’s orders.
The Chair of the school board, Dr. Rosalind Osgood, said that COVID-19 is killing scores of residents in the community and the district is doing everything to keep children safe, but the state isn’t helping.
“In Broward County, we see people dying. We’re attending funerals. We see kids and staff being impacted by COVID-19. We’re having a real-life experience where people that we love, work and play with are dying every day. Our cry is based on the need to provide some safety and stability to the people in our community,” she said.
The state has already withheld the salaries of school board members in Broward County because of its mask policy. Broward and Alachua are the only two counties that have suffered consequences so far.
But Broward Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said there is no plan on lifting their mask mandate.
“Our local school board is acting under the Florida constitution, within their rights, within what they are charged to be doing for their local community. This is about something greater than politics. It has nothing to do with Republican and Democrat views, and everything to do with us being in the middle of a pandemic,” Cartwright said.
The school district has also called on the state to release federal funding for school districts that they say the state has failed to deliver, including millions owed to Broward County.
“We don’t have a process to ask for these funds,” Cartwright said. “We’re talking about well over half a billion dollars.”
In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Education has launched an investigation into how mask policies are being handled in Florida.
The Florida Department of Education responded to the investigation by releasing the following statement:
“This letter, and accompanying press release, is pure political grandstanding from the Broward County School District and Superintendent who have already repeatedly shown that they only care about scoring political points and being noticed by their party leaders in D.C.”