Broward School Board Defies State Again on Masks and Quarantines

A couple of weeks ago, the state issued new emergency guidelines for school districts. But Tuesday, Broward decided to continue with its own policies. 

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The Broward County School Board defied the state again.

Tuesday the board decided it would continue its current COVID-19 protocols, including mandatory masking and quarantines when students test positive or come into direct contact with someone who has COVID.

The Florida Department of Education had already ordered all school districts, months ago, to make masks optional. Thirteen districts, including Broward and Miami-Dade, decided to ignore that order and make masks mandatory unless the student has a medical reason to opt out. 

A couple of weeks ago, the state issued new emergency guidelines for school districts, reiterating the policy that masks must be optional and also now saying parents can essentially opt their kids out of quarantines if their kids are asymptomatic. But Tuesday, Broward decided to continue with its own policies. 

“I do not support making masks optional at this time, I think our mask mandate has helped us keeping our students safe,” said board member Patricia Good during Tuesday's emergency board meeting. 

“I think we’ve seen our policies work in terms of keeping students and employees safe and I don’t see any reason to change it now,” added board member Sarah Leonardi.

So what about the quarantine policy? The state’s new surgeon general issued a directive through the Department of Health saying parents can decide whether to keep their asymptomatic kids home from school if they come into contact with someone who has COVID. The board voted 8 to 1 to keep its existing protocols, with Lori Alhadeff as the lone dissenter.

“I believe we should be following the laws,” Alhadeff said. “If a child’s asymptomatic that we should be giving parents the choice on quarantine, I agree with that, we have kids out of school for many days.”

The Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran posted a letter on the department’s website Tuesday, threatening Broward with more sanctions if the board doesn’t comply with the state’s directives. So far, the state has only levied sanctions against the Broward and Alachua County school districts, even though 13 have defied its directives on COVID protocols. 

“Once again the state’s utilizing intimidation tactics to pressure us in our decision,” Good said.

Picking up a printed copy of the letter, board member Nora Rupert said, “This, released not even to the district but put on their website? Shameful, shameful stuff and we are not cowards here in Broward, and I’ll say it again, bring it, we are ready to stand tall for our families and our kids.”

The board said if the vaccination rate in Broward County hits 67%, which it already has, and the COVID-19 positivity rate goes down to 3% for ten days, it will revisit its COVID protocols. 

The interim superintendent, Dr. Vickie Cartwright, said on any given day, a maximum of 10 students show up to school unmasked out of a population of 260,000. 

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