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SPLC Statement on Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order Blocking School Mask Mandates

FLORIDA – With millions of children across Florida set to return to school this month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Friday barring school districts from implementing face mask requirements for their students. The order, which ignores guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and recommendations by the American Pediatrics Association, puts millions of children and Black and low-income communities at risk of COVID-19 and new variants that spread more easily and quickly. 

The following statement is from Bacardi Jackson, managing attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s children’s rights practice group

“DeSantis’ executive order is irresponsible and flies in the face of CDC guidelines and the recommendation of the American Pediatrics Association and targets only School Districts and public schools.

“DeSantis’ edict means that schools are not going to be accessible for medically vulnerable children and children from communities that have been most impacted by the pandemic, including Black communities, communities experiencing poverty, and communities that don’t have sufficient access to high-quality health care. 

“While the Governor purports to give parents freedom to decide that their children don’t have to wear masks in school, he is stripping away the rights of all other parents, to choose a safe in-school environment for their children – a right the Florida Constitution guarantees. That is, under his Executive Order, some parents now have the authority to push out or endanger other children by forcing them to be in close proximity for seven to eight hours a day with unmasked classmates who could be virus carriers, creating an enormous risk to their health and even their lives – a risk that is multiplied for medically vulnerable children and children whose families and communities have already been most impacted by the pandemic. 

“Now that students are required to return to school in person, prohibiting mask mandates is an action of the state that affirmatively puts them in danger and shows deliberate indifference to the excessive risks to their health and safety. It is another example of DeSantis’ dictatorial propensities that ignore the requirements of the Constitution and usurp the authority of local elected officials and policymakers to do what is in the best interests of their constituents as well as his relentless efforts to privatize education and destroy public schools.”