Some School Districts Are Defying State Bans on Mask Mandates
New laws or decrees in a number of states in the United States prohibit school officials from imposing mask warrants, leaving it up to parents to decide whether their children will wear masks in class.
But with the sharp increase in coronavirus cases across the country and new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying everyone, vaccinated or not, should wear masks in schools, some school districts in those states are requiring mask warrants anyway, despite the risk of financial penalties for breaking state orders.
“I think school administrators are realizing that the benefits outweigh the risks,” said Rachel Graham, epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “And I really hope a governor doesn’t take funding from a school.”
In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said in an executive order last Friday that the state would withdraw funding from any district that violates “the basic right of parents to make decisions about the health and education of their children. By forcing students to wear masks.
“We have a lot of pressure from the CDC and others to make every person, children and staff, wear masks all day,” Gov. DeSantis said when announcing his order. “It would be a huge mistake. “
But four Florida school systems – in Broward, Leon, Duval and Alachua counties – have said they will retain or seek to impose mask warrants.
Leon’s school principal Rocky Hanna said in a letter to the governor that the district is asking for “the flexibility and autonomy to make decisions for our schools that best match our local data and information in the county. of Leon “. Ms Hanna wrote that four school-aged children from the county and two kindergarten teachers had been hospitalized with Covid-19.
In Arizona, a state law banning mandatory masks in schools comes into effect in late September, though it was written to apply retroactively. Despite this, several school systems, including the Districts of Phoenix and Tucson, have decided to require masks on campus at the start of the school year.
The matter is currently being examined in the courts. Phoenix high school science teacher sues Phoenix Union school district for his mask tenure, claiming he violates state law; the district replied that it cannot violate a law that has not yet come into force, the Associated Press reported.
The state bans drew criticism from the Biden administration. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a White House briefing on Thursday: “So we expect our education officials and educators to follow the practices that worked last year. , and we expect our students to be in the classroom. every day.”
Something of the opposite dynamic is playing out in Illinois, where Governor JB Pritzker, a Democrat, said this week that all school districts must impose full mask mandates, not the optional mask policies that many had. adopted. Some districts have changed their policies to comply, but at least one has said it will only assess the new order, according to The Daily Herald, a newspaper serving the Chicago suburbs.
Mask-wearing policies are taking on increased importance in schools because, while pupils aged 12 to 17 are now eligible for vaccination, no vaccines have yet been authorized for children under 12. And while children are less likely than adults to get sick from the virus themselves, they can pass it on to others.
“You can’t control the way they interact and touch each other,” Ms. Graham said. “If there is a virus, the children will take it home. “
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