Palm Beach County school officials became the latest group of Florida education leaders to defy Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order against mask mandates in schools, multiple news outlets are reporting.
The Palm Beach County School Board voted Wednesday to remove parents’ ability to exempt their children from wearing masks in public schools. The new policy requires students to wear a mask at school unless they are exempt due to a disability, The Palm Beach Post reported.
Earlier on Wednesday, school officials in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties voted to mandate all children wear masks in schools unless they show evidence of a medical exemption. Broward, Leon, and Alachua counties already adopted similar policies.
The Post said the moves came as more school boards have decided to push back at the governor’s order last month. That order bars public schools from mandating students wear masks.
The new Palm Beach County schools policy is expected to take effect on Monday. Parents in Palm Beach County had pleaded with school officials for the strong mask requirement as COVID-19 cases soar. More than 3,000 students in the district have been sent home to quarantine, the Post said.
In addition, 700 students and more than 100 school employees have tested positive for COVID-19 in the first two weeks of school in Palm Beach County.
And the South Florida Sun Sentinel noted the state reported 23,335 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
The school board voted 6-1 to require masks. The order will be in effect for 90 days, according to the Sentinel. An earlier policy by the school board allowed for a parental opt-out that permitted more than 10,000 students to attend classes without a mask.
The Post pointed out the new policy could open the door for retaliatory actions from DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. Both have warned that school officials who defy the governor’s order could face sanctions.
"No politician is above the law, even the Palm Beach County school board members," said Christina Pushaw, DeSantis' press secretary. "It is disappointing that the school board chose to change their mask policy — which had previously protected the freedom for parents to opt their kids out, in compliance with Florida law.”
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