Florida’s largest school district ends mask mandate; refuses to cite court decision upholding DeSantis authority

Officials with the Miami-Dade County School District said Tuesday they are ending all mask mandates for children and will permit parents in all grades to decide if their kids ought to cover their faces, reports said on Tuesday.

School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced the decision following a court ruling last week in which a judge said GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is within his authority to allow parents to decide for kids whether they want to opt-out of stricter COVID mandates.

However, instead of citing the court ruling on behalf of DeSantis, Carvalho said that the district’s decision is based on falling COVID-19 cases, suggesting that mandates could return if cases begin to spike again.

“On the basis of current health conditions, which are dramatically improved, effective tomorrow parents can access the parent opt-out form from any elementary or K-8 school in Miami-Dade,” Carvalho told a news conference, noting that kids can stop wearing their masks if parents choose for them to do so by Friday.

Last week Carvalho approved relaxed masking requirements for middle and high school students and said he was planning to also allow elementary school kids to opt-out as well if coronavirus cases continue to fall.

In addition to Miami-Dade, the school board of the state’s second-largest district, in Broward County, approved optional masking on Tuesday.

“Reported cases of coronavirus have dropped from an average of 21,700 cases a day back in mid-August, when the school year began to an average of 1,500. Hospitalizations have also plummeted from about 17,000 to 1,300 patients,” Fox News reported.

Carvalho told reporters that three of four schools in the Miami-Dade district did not report any coronavirus cases last week, and the bulk of them were elementary schools.

DeSantis has quarreled with some school boards and districts in the state after signing an executive order earlier this fall banning schools from imposing masks and other pandemic mandates, preferring instead to allow parents to make the decision. He has also battled state courts.

In September, Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled that DeSantis lacked the authority to issue the bans or that a new law enshrining parenteral rights was enforceable.

“We’ll end up getting it back. Obviously [Cooper’s ruling], it’s problematic,” he told reporters, expressing confidence that he would be victorious on appeal.

“It’s not surprising that Judge Cooper would rule against parents’ rights and their ability to make the best educational and medical decisions for their family, but instead rule in favor of elected politicians. This ruling was made with incoherent justifications, not based in science and facts — frankly not even remotely focused on the merits of the case presented,” DeSantis Communications Director Taryn Fenske noted after the ruling.

In October, the Florida Board of Education approved sanctions on eight schools for violating DeSantis’ mandate ban.

“We will not be strong-armed, nor will we allow others to be,” State Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said at the time. “Should the federal government’s efforts stray even slightly from justice to deter parental rights or lawful speech, they should prepare for a very swift and zealous response.”

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