Sarasota County Public Schools became the first school district in a Republican-leaning Florida county to impose a school mask mandate, in violation of a ban on such measures adopted by the administration of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Hours prior to the vote in Sarasota, Florida’s education commissioner moved forward with punitive measures against two Democratic-leaning counties who likewise ran afoul of the ban with mandates of their own.
Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran warned Alachua and Broward Counties that if they didn’t rescind their school mask mandates in 48 hours, the state would proceed to gradually withhold a dollar amount equal to the salaries of the officials who voted for the mandates.
The Sarasota County school board voted 3–2 in favor of imposing the school mask mandate, according to Politico. The board’s website hadn’t yet posted the minutes from the meeting as of 11 p.m. on Aug. 20.
Representatives for the board didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
A large number of parents attended the meeting to protest the mandate. The crowd broke out into rowdy outbursts and, at one point, the board cleared out all of the attendees.
Besides Alachua and Broward, several other counties have imposed mask mandates, all of them Democrat-leaning. Sarasota County voted for Republicans by a 10-point margin in 2020.
Florida’s prohibition against school mandates stems from an emergency rule adopted by the Florida Departments of Health and Education earlier this month that requires school districts to allow parents to opt their children out of compelled mask-wearing.
DeSantis issued an executive order on July 30 directing state agencies to create rules and actions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools. That order instructed that any rules adopted be in line with the state’s Parents’ Bill of Rights, which was adopted by the legislature and signed by DeSantis earlier in 2021.
Sarasota County Public Schools serve more than 43,000 students.
Since July 1, 778 students tested positive for the CCP virus, the disease that causes COVID-19, in Sarasota County, according to the county school district’s dashboard.
Of the more than 606,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States, only 349 were under 18 years old, according to data up to Aug. 4.