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Florida's Broward school board votes to maintain mask mandate

Florida's Broward school board votes to maintain mask mandate
The Broward County School Board on Tuesday voted to require masks in school in violation of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis late July executive order prohibiting such a mandate. File Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 11 (UPI) -- Florida's southeastern Broward County School Board has voted to maintain its school district's mask mandate as the state's education commissioner launches investigations into counties that aren't complying with Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order prohibiting compulsory mask directives.

The Broward County Board announced in a press release Tuesday that its members voted 8-1 to continue to maintain its mandatory face covering rule for students, staff and visitors at all district schools and facilities, regardless of vaccination status. Requests to not wear a mask due to medical conditions will be considered, it said.

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"Our priority is a safe in-person school year," Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco said in a statement. "New evidence means everyone in school buildings needs to wear masks. We are thankful the Board agrees."

The board said the vote was held during a special meeting Tuesday in which they were presented with 48 public speakers and after reviewing more than 350 written comments.

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They also said they have authorized the district's interim general counsel and interim superintended to retain outside counsel to consider filing legal action against DeSantis' executive order that he issued late last month prohibiting schools from mandating masks on the grounds that it violates the rights of parents to decide how to protect their children.

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In response to the vote, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran wrote to the Broward County superintendent that an investigation has been launched into the non-compliance with the executive order.

"If this matter is not addressed by submitting the documentation establishing compliance with the law, the maximum accountability measure provided for under the law will be imposed," he said.

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Several other counties have issued similar mask mandates in defiance of the governor's executive order, including Leon and Alachua Counties.

Corcoran also sent them near identical letters on Monday, stating he was "immediately initiating" investigations of non-compliance.

"Depending on the facts presented, I may recommend to the State Board of Education that the Department withhold funds in an amount equal to the salaries for the Superintendent and all the members of the School Board," he said. "There is no room for error or leniency when it comes to ensuring compliance with policies that allow parents and guardians to make health and educational choices for their children."

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The letters were sent the same day that DeSantis threatened the pay of officials who do not follow his executive order that has seen at least two lawsuits filed over its constitutionality.

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The fight in Florida over masks is occurring as a similar confrontation brews in Texas as the city of San Antonio and Bexar County announced school mask mandates on Tuesday in violation of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order that is similar to and issued around the same time as DeSantis' directive.

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