Coronavirus: School board in Miami-Dade County makes masks mandatory

MIAMI — A school board in South Florida became the latest district in the state to require students and teachers to wear face coverings for the start of the 2021-22 academic year.

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Miami-Dade County Public Schools, by a 7-1 vote, approved the mandate on Wednesday, the Miami Herald reported. There is an opt-out option for medical reasons.

The decision comes days before Florida’s largest school district begins classes on Monday, WPLG reported.

The lone dissenting vote was cast by Lubby Navarro, WSVN reported. Board member Christi Fraga was not present.

“My constituents of District 7 never elected me to violate state law,” Navarro said.

Before the vote, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the State Board of Education that he was prepared to defy Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order, which forbade school districts from requiring masks without allowing parents the choice to opt-out, the Herald reported.

DeSantis signed the order on July 30.

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“For the consequences associated with doing the right thing, whatever that right thing is, I will wear proudly as a badge of honor,” Carvalho said, according to the newspaper. “I’m going to leave here today and go to my own school board meeting and I’m going to do that, which is right, rightfully righteous.”

Miami-Dade’s decision follows that of neighboring Broward County, which began classes on Wednesday, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The State Board of Education ruled that the Broward district violated a state rule that gives parents the option of having their children opt out of masks, the newspaper reported.

Alachua County, in north Florida, also passed a masked mandate, according to the Herald.

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The state has threatened to strip money from the districts that violate the order and remove School Board members from office, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

The vote in Miami-Dade County was praised by the United Teachers of Dade, according to WSVN. However, more than a dozen people opposed to mandatory mask policies spoke out against the rule at Wednesday’s meeting and protested outside Miami-Dade Schools headquarters, the Herald reported.

“Social and emotional development is being stunted in masked children,” Jimena Hills, a parent and recreational therapist, told the newspaper.

The mask rule in Miami-Dade applies to all indoor areas and school buses, according to the Herald. Masks won’t be required for outdoor activities like sports and physical education classes.

“The right thing includes, in my opinion, a mandatory mask policy,” Carvalho said, according to WPLG. “This is not a political statement. This is a protective tool.”

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