Parents fight DeSantis’ ban on face mask mandates at Florida public schools

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Some parents are fighting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on face mask mandates at public schools in Florida. They are arguing the ongoing rise in COVID cases merits the public health measure.

DeSantis’ executive order makes the use of face masks at public schools optional. John and Robyn McCarthy are both worried about their son’s asthma increasing his vulnerability to a COVID infection.

As he gets ready to start first grade, the parents argue DeSantis is messing with his right to a safe public education.

“We want to just protect all our children,” John McCarthy said Wednesday. “We are looking for a solution here. We want to follow science. We want to keep our children safe.”

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden said DeSantis needed to “get out of the way” and allow local officials to impose face mask mandates. The president also wants governors to support incentives, so more people choose to get the vaccine against COVID.

“The mask unless everyone is wearing it, it doesn’t protect him,” Robyn McCarthy said. “Wearing the mask protects others, so for us, they took the choice away from us.”

The concerned mother had a message for DeSantis: “We will not back down and we will not tolerate your bullying.”

Franzella Guido Chacon agrees with the McCarthy family. She started an online petition asking Miami-Dade County Public Schools administrators to adopt and enforce a face mask mandate as the coronavirus Delta variant continues to spread.

Guido Chacon wants school districts to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest recommendation for “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.”

Rosalind Osgood, the chair of the School Board of Broward County, said she is concerned. DeSantis’ executive order invalidated the 9-member board’s decision to start requiring face masks on Aug. 18, the first day of the 2021-22 school year.

“We can’t take a risk,” Osgood said. “I have to stand and I have to stand morally and I have to protect people and value the lives of people no matter what the consequences.”

Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco supports the measure. The School Board of Broward County is scheduled to discuss whether or not the district will enforce a face mask mandate during a meeting on Aug. 10.

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About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.