MIAMI (WSVN) - The Miami-Dade County Public School board has said they will stand firm regarding mask mandates in the district’s classrooms, despite the state’s threats to withhold funding.
The district had until 5 p.m. to decide whether or not they will side with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and allow children and parents the option of wearing a mask or continue to impose a mask mandate.
“We stand by the fact that this is a small price to pay to ensure the health and well-being of our students and the workforce that teaches them and protects them,” M-DCPS Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Wednesday. “We believe that the actions of this board comply with both the Constitutional provisions as well as state statutes by guaranteeing a safe, secure and healthy environment for both our students, as well as our workforce.”
The district said they expect funding to be withheld, like what the state did with Broward County Public Schools.
“We believe safeguarding our teachers and students is absolutely a public interest,” Carvalho said. “It is absolutely consistent with the Constitution of Florida, which demands a safe and secure environment for our students. That’s exactly what we are delivering by following specific protocols, which are endorsed by public and health officials in our community.”
Carvalho has been very vocal about what, he said, is a political debate. He said he wants to see the conversation move back toward the children and their well-being.
“This mask mandate policy is not a political ploy and children should not be used as political pawns in this chess game,” Carvalho said last week. “We want to teach them. We want to protect them, and the only way to do that, based on the expert advice of doctors and public health officials, is by getting people vaccinated, maintaining social distance, wearing the mask. We are standing firm, unflinching in our desire to continue to protect our students and our teachers.”
The deadline for M-DCPS comes on the heels of BCPS’s decision to uphold their mask mandate. DeSantis said he is serious about the order he gave and has withheld an amount that equates to the salaries of those on that school board.
“The health and safety of our students, teachers and staff continue to be our highest priority,” said BCPS Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright. “As such, we will continue to mandate the mask.”
The district remains adamant that they are doing the right thing.
“We will continue to mandate the mask knowing that our data, as we’re looking at it, our quarantine data, is demonstrating that the use of a mask is helping to minimize the spread of COVID-19,” said Cartwright.
A judge ruled Friday that school districts have discretion over mask mandates for students. That ruling, however, has not yet been filed.
In the meantime, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody issued a legal opinion that read, in part, “It is my opinion that the district must comply … unless and until the judiciary declares them invalid.”
Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran is backing DeSantis and said, “We are going to continue to fight to protect parents’ rights to make healthcare decisions for their children.”
Corcoran called the board’s decision unacceptable and a failure to uphold the State of Florida’s constitution.
Lawyers for Broward County reminded its board members the oath they took was to follow the State of Florida’s constitution.
“The language of the school board shall operate, control and supervise all free public schools was held by Judge Cooper to be paramount and to override — in this case — the actions of the executive order from the governor,” said BCPS board attorney Marylin Batista.
On Tuesday, Florida reported 18,608 COVID cases and 15,682 hospitalizations.
To read M-DCPS’s full letter to the state, click here.
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