Two of Florida's largest school districts voted Wednesday to require face coverings on campuses, defying Gov. Ron DeSantis' mask mandate ban.
School boards in Hillsborough and Miami-Dade Counties held emergency meetings Wednesday and voted, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The policy goes into effect immediately and lasts for 30 days.
Hillsborough and Miami-Dade join Broward, Leon, and Alachua Counties in openly defying the Republican governor and the Florida Department of Education.
Niche.com ranks Miami-Dade (No. 3), Broward (No. 5), and Hillsborough (No. 6) among the country's largest school districts.
DeSantis has threatened to dock the salaries of superintendents and school board members who don't allow parents to opt their children out of wearing a mask, the Times reported.
Hillsborough and Miami-Dade Counties school districts represent more than 600,000 students overall, Axios reported.
The Hillsborough school board voted 5-2, and the Miami-Dade school board voted 7-1. Students previously had been allowed to fill out a simple form and opt out of wearing a mask at school. Now, they’ll need a note from a certified health care provider documenting the need to be unmasked.
The Hillsborough board, before voting, heard often-emotional testimony from residents on both sides of the mask issue.
People against the mask mandates said the rules were assaults on freedom and a heavy emotional burden for children, the Times reported.
"This is tyranny. And we will not stand for it. We will vote you out," one woman said.
Hillsborough on Wednesday reported 1,840 confirmed COVID-19 cases among students and staff, and 10,000 students and staff remained quarantined.
DeSantis on Monday asked a judge to throw out a lawsuit by parents challenging his ban on strict mask mandates in schools, arguing the court lacks jurisdiction over the issue.
Disgruntled parents who "fear being around unvaccinated, non-masked people" don’t have a right to sue because the executive order raises political rather than legal questions, DeSantis argued in a motion filed in state court in Tallahassee, Florida.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that the Biden administration plans to invoke the Department of Education's civil rights enforcement arm to require the use of masks in schools.
DeSantis blasted President Joe Biden and said states that have banned mask mandates in schools could face lawsuits from the Department of Education.
"You have all the stuff going on with Afghanistan – obviously all the stuff at the southern border … one of the biggest border disasters in the history of our country, inflation, gas prices, and what does he do?" DeSantis said on Fox News.
Bloomberg News contributed to this story.
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