More than half of Florida students are now required to wear masks, defying DeSantis’ order

Ongoing lawsuit could toss governor’s executive order

A student listens to the teacher's instructions at iPrep Academy on the first day of school, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in Miami. Schools in Miami-Dade County opened Monday with a strict mask mandate to guard against coronavirus infections. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Lynne Sladky, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – With the addition of school district mandate mask mandates in Orange and Indian River counties, more than half of Florida’s students are now required to wear face masks while in the classroom.

Several weeks before classes resumed Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order, banning mandates and reinforcing a parent’s right to choose whether their child wears a mask in school. State officials have threatened to withhold funding equal to school board salaries if a district doesn’t comply. Those funds make up less than 1% of each district’s budget.

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Since the executive order, many school districts have enacted mask requirements but with the option to opt-out with a note from parents or guardians. According to the governor’s office, these flexible mandates do not violate DeSantis’ order. Whereas districts that have mask mandates but require a note from a doctor to opt-out are in violation of the state order.

As of Wednesday, 10 Florida counties have passed mandates that require a note from a doctor. Those school districts include some of the state’s largest such as Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Leon, Alachua and Orange. Even though Florida has 67 counties, the 10 school districts contain more than 52% of the state’s 2.8 million public school student population.

However, there is an ongoing hearing happening where a judge may decide if Florida’s school mask mandate policy can stand or if school districts leaving the decision up to parents or if school districts can implement their own mandates making the governor’s order void.

The governor said during a news conference Wednesday in The Villages that he believes parents are in the best position to make health decisions for their students, not the school district. He also said districts will continue to face consequences for breaking state law.

“That’s what state law says and I think that that’s the way to go but nobody is above the law. And you can’t go above the law and take away people’s rights. And that’s what they’re doing, they’re taking away parents rights, and there will be consequences,” DeSantis said.

Below is a list of school districts that are defying the state’s ban on mandatory masks for students.