Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed an executive order protecting the right of parents to choose whether or not their children wear masks at school.
The order was a response to the Biden administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing guidance saying that students should be required to wear masks when they return to school in the fall.
“Today, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 21-175, in response to several Florida school boards considering or implementing mask mandates in their schools after the Biden Administration issued unscientific and inconsistent recommendations that school-aged children wear masks,” the governor’s office said in a statement on Friday. “The Florida Department of Health will enter rulemaking in collaboration with the Florida Department of Education to protect parents’ freedom to choose whether their children wear masks.”
While speaking at the press conference where he signed the order, DeSantis said that “the federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day.”
“Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children,” DeSantis added.
The order directs Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to “pursue all legal means available to ensure school districts adhere to Florida law, including … withholding state funds from noncompliant school boards….”
Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union, issued a statement condemning the order.
“We … ask Gov. DeSantis to allow all Florida’s citizens to have a voice by empowering the elected leaders of cities, counties and school districts to make health and safety decisions locally based on their unique needs and circumstances,” the statement read in part.
Prior to signing the executive order, DeSantis had already made it clear that Florida would not be complying with any federal mandates imposing compulsory masks for kids.
“There’s been talk about potentially people advocating at the federal level, imposing compulsory masks on kids,” DeSantis said while speaking at a bill signing event in Fort Pierce late last month. . “We’re not doing that in Florida, OK? We need our kids to breathe.”
DeSantis noted that parents who want their children to wear masks can still choose to do so.
“Parents obviously can equip their kids to go to school however they want, but there shouldn’t be any coercive mandates on our schools,” he said, adding that masks are “terribly” uncomfortable for kids.