They are bracing for the fallout at Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Yesterday, the school board voted 7-1 to defy the governor and the state Board of Education by imposing a mandatory mask mandate for students and staff at its schools.
Most of the board members and the superintendent said they had to do what they felt was best to protect the kids, regardless of threats from Tallahassee. So Miami-Dade joins Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, and Alachua counties in making masks mandatory.
“I know that masking our children is an imposition, but what’s the alternative, what’s the option, what’s the threshold of pain in our community for the loss of one single child, some people take comfort in telling me the percentage of risk is very small, but what does that mean? Does that mean 2, 3 children, four children, is that ok?” said superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
“And overwhelmingly, our parents want our students to be safe and that was the message that came through and that’s why we voted the way we did,” said school board member, Lucia Baez-Geller.
Baez-Geller was one of the seven who voted to require masks for everyone, unless a student can show a verified medical reason not to wear a mask. They followed the advice of medical experts and ignored pressure from the state to give all parents the option of sending their kids to school unmasked, as state law requires.
“Right now it’s really a shame that health and safety standards are being politicized,” Baez-Geller said.
The one board member who voted against the mandate, Lubby Navarro, said parents should make the decision for their kids.
“Knowing the health conditions in consultation with your pediatrician, that’s your choice as a parent, we cannot dictate what is best for the parent because the state law mandates that we give the parents the option,” Navarro said.
Governor Ron DeSantis weighed in briefly about the Miami-Dade School Board’s vote during an appearance today in Ormond Beach.
“They basically took that away from the parents, so my view is that the parents understand what’s best for their kids,” DeSantis said.
Making masks mandatory, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, helps prevent unmasked, infected children from spreading the delta variant to others.
“Those protocols are not a matter of opinion, they are a matter of expert advice for medical professionals,” Carvalho said.
Baez-Geller said the school board will challenge any possible sanctions from Tallahassee, saying the Florida constitutional imperative to provide a safe school environment for every child supercedes the governor’s executive order and the Parent’s Bill of Rights law.