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Another Florida school district defies mask mandate ban as classes resume

'We strongly urge you to follow the lead of your fellow school districts,' Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book says
Posted at 9:29 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 21:29:14-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — With most Florida public schools heading back to class this week, and those supporting mask mandates are making a final push to get districts to cover up.

That was despite the governor's recent ban, which requires masking opt-outs.

Leon County, the capital city school district, was the latest to announce it wouldn’t fully comply with DeSantis' order.

Superintendent Rocky Hanna said Monday morning he would require Pre-K through eighth-grade students to mask up, at least until Labor Day. The only exception would be for those with a doctor's note related to physical or mental concerns.

"If I didn't do what was best for the children here in Tallahassee and Leon County, that's on me," Hanna said. "Every time I'd look in the mirror, it would be really hard."

The new defection comes after Alachua County moved forward with similar requirements and has Florida Democrats in the Senate urging more schools to ignore the governor and follow CDC guidelines.

The minority leader sent a letter to officials in all 67 districts Monday afternoon saying, "We believe in and support local rule."

"As you prepare the final details for a safe reopening of the school year," wrote Minority Leader Lauren Book. "We strongly urge you to follow the lead of your fellow school districts, which have chosen to implement mask policies, backed by physicians who are on the front lines of treating this disease."

A 12-year-old Jacksonville girl has joined that chorus calling for mandates, as well.

Lila Hartley recently sent a letter of her own to the Duval County school district asking for a strict mask mandate to protect her 10-year-old brother.

"I just don't want him or any other kids that can't get vaccinated to get sick at school," she told reporters Monday. "Masks help us be safe -- everyone."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has spent the last few weeks defending the ban on mandates, which he signed last month. The Republican said it puts parents in charge of the decision, not schools.

Those who don't comply could face funding cuts. The governor's office, however, stressed in a statement learning would not be impacted and suggested superintendents or board members could see salaries withheld.

"Education funding is intended to benefit students first and foremost, not systems," said Press Secretary Christina Pushaw. "The Governor's priorities are protecting parents' rights and ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality education that meets their unique needs."