Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is asking public school districts across the state to drop mask mandates for the upcoming school year, saying that it has no impact whether or not students and teachers wear masks on campus.
“We ask that districts, which currently are implementing a mandated face-covering policy, revise their policy to be voluntary for the 2021-2022 school year,” Corcoran wrote in an April 14 letter sent to district superintendents.
In Florida, the decision on mask mandates during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic are made by individual school district boards. Neither Corcoran nor Gov. Ron DeSantis has ever ordered that masks to be worn in school settings.
The districts’ mask mandates “do not impact the spread of the virus,” Corcoran wrote, citing a review of policies of those districts where masks are mandatory, the percentage of students learning in-person in those districts, and relevant health data.
“Face coverings are a personal decision and certainly families and individuals should maintain their ability to make a decision that is unique to their circumstances,” Corcoran’s letter reads. “Broad sweeping mandatory face covering policies serve no remaining good at this point in our schools.”
According to Corcoran, masks “may impede instruction,” particularly for English-language learners and those with disabilities, who benefit from being able to see the teacher’s face and mouth. He also noted that mask requirements may also have prompted some parents to keep their children at home instead of sending them back to classrooms.
“We expect more students to participate in face-to-face instruction,” Cocoran wrote, adding that Florida’s schools are already “safer than the communities at large” and will only become safer with the increased availability of vaccines.
Corcoran’s request comes as the DeSantis administration pushes to limit mask-wearing orders by local governments in Florida. Last month, DeSantis signed an executive order to suspend any fines city or county officials imposed on individuals and businesses who violated public health restrictions, such as masks and curfews.
“We are having no lockdowns, no mandates in Florida,” the Republican governor said on March 18 at a vaccination site in Panama City. “People are able to make decisions on their own. They can understand what they want to do and what they don’t want to do.”
DeSantis also vowed to not implement any vaccine passport system that requires people to show proof of vaccination before they can travel, attend large events, or get served at businesses.
“We’re going to look to see what we need to do to make sure we’re protecting Floridians,” he said.