President Joe Biden is praising a Broward County school leader for implementing mask requirements in defiance of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said he would punish school districts that mandate mask-wearing in classrooms.
Biden commended interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright of Broward County Public School for enforcing mask use amid an alarming surge of COVID-19 cases in the state. In a separate call, Biden also praised Superintendent Chad Gestson of the Phoenix Union High School District, according to a statement from the White House.
Gestson, like Cartwright, is implementing a mask mandate despite an order from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey that prohibits school districts from requiring masks.
The White House said Biden and the superintendents discussed “their shared commitment to getting all students back in safe, full-time in-person learning this school year" and that the president “commended their leadership and courage to do the right thing for the health and well-being of their students, teachers, and schools."
Ducey in June signed into law budget legislation enacted by the Republican-led Legislature to ban school districts from requiring masks. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued orders to block school mask mandates, dictating school districts should allow parents to opt out if they don’t want their children to wear masks in classrooms.
Both states' restrictions face pending court challenges.
Biden’s reported comments drew criticism from a Republican state legislator who said the Democratic president was “promoting lawlessness.”
“President Biden knows how unpopular a national mask mandate is so he’s chosen instead to exploit our children & use school districts to do his dirty work,” Arizona state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita said in a Twitter thread. “It’s truly sad to see the (president) encourage our supposed educational leaders to break the law.”