Who should protect your child while they are in school? Ask yourself if a politician in Tallahassee should have more standing than parents or local school board members to make decisions about school safety in their local school.
As Floridians, we elect local school board members to decide how to best educate and protect our children. Why do we do this, if the governor can simply threaten school boards and take away the power we have entrusted to them? Tom Grady, the chair of the state Board of Education, recently stated, “You can’t have more local control than control by the parent.” However, Gov. Ron DeSantis has recently issued an executive order which threatens local school boards with defunding if they mandate mask compliance in their school districts. Such an action holds local school boards hostage and forces compliance with DeSantis’ own partisan positions, which stand in direct opposition to suggestions from the CDC and other experts to help fight the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. DeSantis’ positions also oppose what our local school board members have decided is in the best interests of their students, our children. This bears repeating — Gov. DeSantis is threatening to withhold school funding, which directly impacts public school children’s education and safety, unless the local schools follow his politically driven mandates.
What Gov. DeSantis does not understand is that diseases and epidemics are not politically driven and a virus does not have any politics. The decision to recommend and mandate face masks should be driven by science, not politics, an idea that appears to be difficult for Governor DeSantis to understand. The reality is that the CDC, the American Association of Pediatricians, and the U.S. Department of Health have recommended that children should wear masks while in school.
Gov. DeSantis’ handling of the current epidemic has led the state of Florida to an appalling statistic. Despite having a smaller overall population, Florida has surpassed Canada in fatalities due to the coronavirus.
Not only is Gov. DeSantis holding school funding over the heads of local school boards, but Tallahassee politicians are trying to pull another bait and switch by defunding public schools. They also are robbing the Hope Scholarship program of needed funds. In the past, Hope Scholarship funds have been provided to students who are victims of bullying to allow those children access to charter schools and a safer environment. However, Tallahassee politicians are now suggesting that parents who don’t want their children to wear masks also should have access to these Hope Scholarship funds. Not only would this expansion take available funds from children who are being bullied, it moves more funds away from the public schools and into private charter schools.
What should we, as parents, teachers and citizens, be doing? Listen to science. It is that simple. Listen to the scientists who tell us that masks help protect others from being infected by a deadly virus. We need to ask the school boards to mandate masks. We are faced with a deadly virus that affects our children, their siblings, our brothers and sisters, our grandparents and all they come in contact with. Parents should not be able to opt out of masks and risk the lives of all the staff, teachers and children who attend school because of political posturing by politicians in Tallahassee or because they choose to ignore scientific facts. Those parents have other options to educate their children that do not place the entire school community and our children at risk, and which respects and protects their own views. These options include virtual schooling and/or homeschooling.
A few hours of students, teachers, and others wearing masks with minimal discomfort is well worth it when we can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We all can agree that we do not want to return to a lockdown or see an increase of deaths in Florida.
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