By Kevin Deutsch
The Broward County School Board on Tuesday voted 8-1 to keep its mask mandate for students in place to begin the school year and also decided to hire outside legal counsel to challenge state anti-mask rules.
“This disease comes with fatality, lifelong implications,” School Board Chair Dr. Rosalind Osgood said before casting her vote in favor of continuing the mask requirement. “I’m not negotiable when it comes to masks…To ask me to bring 27 people in a classroom without masks is not plausible.”
When school begins Aug. 18, face coverings will be mandatory for students, staff, and visitors at all schools and district facilities, but no masks will be required when outdoors. The policy follows current CDC guidance recommending “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.”
Broward students can opt out of the requirement if they receive a medical waiver.
The lone dissenter during Tuesday’s mask vote was School Board Member Lori Alhadeff.
The board’s decision flies in the face of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Ensuring Parents’ Freedom to Choose Masks in Schools” executive order, issued July 30, which grants Florida’s Board of Education the power to withhold funding from any district that requires masks for students.
Last week, following DeSantis’ lead, the Florida Department of Health adopted an emergency rule mandating parents be allowed to opt-out of mask requirements implemented by local school districts for any reason.
The Florida Board of Education approved a separate rule that broadened a state scholarship program—originally meant for student victims of bullying—to include students who do not want to wear masks in school.
On Monday, DeSantis’ office said the BOE could withhold salaries from school board members and district superintendents who impose mask mandates.
The school board’s decision Tuesday followed more than five hours of discussion and public comment.
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