Florida’s education commissioner issued an order to Broward and Alachua counties’ school board officials, saying they have 48 hours to comply with the state’s mandate to allow parents and students to opt out of wearing masks.
“It is important to remember that this issue is about ensuring local school board members, elected politicians, follow the law,” Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said in a statement on Friday.
If Broward and Alachua county school board officials do not comply, they will face immediate financial penalties, said the Florida Department of Education.
“If the School Board of Broward County fails to provide the requested compensation information within the 48 hour period, the Florida Department of Education shall withhold state funds based on the most recent appropriations estimate until the school board provides the current estimate,” according to a letter (pdf) sent by the agency to the school boards.
The Broward County School District and Alachua County Public Schools announced they would require masks for all students without the ability to opt out, providing exceptions only for medical conditions. The school boards have said the face coverings are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
However, their requirements directly violate an executive order issued by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, on July 30 that grants Florida parents the final authority on whether they want their children to wear masks in class.
“We cannot have government officials pick and choose what laws they want to follow,” Corcoran added. “These are the initial consequences to their intentional refusal to follow state law and state rule to purposefully and willingly violate the rights of parents. This is simply unacceptable behavior.”
Several other Florida school boards, including Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach, have also mandated mask requirements. Local reports say that Orange and Sarasota school boards could also join them.
It comes as Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, this week announced his state will similarly block funds from going to schools that employ mask mandates.
“Safety recommendations are welcomed and encouraged—mandates that place more stress on students and families aren’t,” Ducey said in a statement. “These grants acknowledge efforts by schools and educators that are following state laws and keeping their classroom doors open for Arizona’s students.”
One study from Yale University found that child care programs that remained open during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t contribute to the spread of the virus. And in April, a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study published in April found that children are at low risk of developing COVID-19 and also don’t play a significant role in the spread of the virus.
A study from March from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found there were more virus-related illnesses in Florida school districts that didn’t implement mask-wearing, although the study found that at the time the instances of school-related COVID-19 cases were small statewide.
The Epoch Times has contacted Broward’s and Alachua’s school districts for comment.