MIAIMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A new school year is on the horizon, and with the start of classes comes a fight over face masks.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ mask mandate ban has led to a major battle, with state officials now threatening to withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who defy the governor’s executive order.
That order also threatens to take away funding from school districts that force students to wear a mask.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who has been highly critical of DeSantis, believes the choice should be up to local school boards.
This comes as students speak up about the choice to wear masks.
A 12-year-old Duval County student named Lila Hartley spoke with Fried on Monday and is worried her younger brother will get sick at school.
“This authoritarian, it’s his way or the highway, and at the expense of our children,” Fried said. “You’re not hurting the school board members by taking away funding, you’re hurting Lila and her friends.”
President of the United Teachers of Dade, Karla Hernandez-Mats, reacted to the threats in a video obtained by Local 10 News, and she did not hold back.
“He’s fighting us against protecting our kids,” she said. “Irrational, irresponsible, playing political games with our children when all we want is our safety. We deserve better than this.”
Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho also reacted on Monday night, saying in a statement:
“We have established a process that requires consultation with experts in the areas of public health and medicine. We will follow this process, which has served us well, and then make a final decision. At no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck; a small price to pay considering the gravity of this issue and the potential impact to the health and well-being of our students and dedicated employees.
“I want to thank the Governor for recognizing that students should not be penalized.”
At least five Florida counties have instituted mask mandates, including Broward County.