MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade County Public School students head back to class on Monday, and they will be wearing masks, following Wednesday’s decision by the school board to mandate masks despite threats of severe penalties for defying Gov. Ron DeSantis order, which says parents should decide whether their children wear masks.
The Miami-Dade County School District, with 334,000 students, is Florida’s largest district and fourth largest in the country. The school board voted 7-1 in favor of a mask mandate, which does allow for medical exemptions from a doctor.READ MORE: French Forces Kill ISIS Leader Believed To Be Responsible For Sgt. La David Johnson’s Death
A task force of medical experts recommended students be required to wear masks when they return to classrooms next week. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho agreed and pushed for the new rule at Wednesday’s meeting.
He said the governor’s order did not impact his decision.
“If the consequence is ultimately my job, my salary, I’m willing to accept that, but I’m not willing to bend on my conviction,” Carvalho said.
DeSantis said at a Wednesday news conference near Fort Lauderdale that Broward, Miami-Dade and other districts that impose mask mandates are violating a law passed by the Legislature and signed by him that states it is up to parents to make health decisions. DeSantis’ order also tasked the education commissioner to find ways to make districts comply, including withholding state funds.
The districts were changing their policies following a recommendation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools wear masks.READ MORE: COVID Booster Shot Confusion Ahead Of FDA Advisory Committee Meeting
The superintendent said the district has put appropriate safeguards in place, with plans to revisit the protocols in place on a weekly basis.
Protesters outside Wednesday meeting could be heard chanting “we will not comply” following the vote. Supporters were also hand shouting “Mask up, mask up!”
DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw told CNN, “No politician is above the law. The legislature passed the parents’ bill of rights and Gov. DeSantis signed it into law. Forced masking of all schoolchildren is not consistent with protecting parents’ rights to make health and education decisions for their own children.”
Broward County public schools opened on Wednesday with a mask mandate in place, which also defies DeSantis’ order.
The district said 257,785 students are enrolled this year. Prior to the start of the school year on Wednesday, 436 students and 191 staff members were quarantining or in isolation due to exposure to or testing positive for COVID-19.
The State Board of Education on Tuesday threatened penalties against school officials in Alachua and Broward counties who require doctors’ notes before students can opt out of mask requirements. The districts could face possible loss of funding, removal of local officials and further action from the state Legislature for requiring masks.MORE NEWS: Rodney Rodriguez, Driver In High-Speed Crash That Killed 3, Finally Booked Into Jail
President Joe Biden called school district superintendents in Florida and Arizona last week to praise them for doing “the right thing” in defiance of executive orders from their governors. The Biden administration also promised federal money if DeSantis carries out a threat to withhold some state funds from districts imposing mask mandates.