DeSantis says Sarasota County school mask mandate goes against state law

State / Regional

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday afternoon Sarasota schools are violating state law by enacting a mask mandate without an opt-out option for parents.

Friday, the Sarasota County School Board passed a 90-day mask mandate that would only allow students not to wear a mask if they had a doctor’s note. The mandate could also be removed if the positivity rate in the county drops below 8 percent for for three days.

While Superintendent Brennan Asplen was committed to following the board’s decision during the voting process, he did have concerns that the board’s plan, whatever it would have been, would conflict with state law.

“I just want to make sure that we are careful not to break the law,” Asplen told the school board members.

While discussing a new antibody treatment site in Bradenton, DeSantis once again said wearing masks should be a parent’s decision. DeSantis previously issued an executive order that restricted mask mandates to give parents authority over mask-wearing decisions, using the Parents’ Bill of Rights as the basis for his decision.

By his logic, DeSantis said the Sarasota school mandate violates the Parents’ Bill of Rights, but when discussing the situation, he spoke in terms of the federal government requiring masks in schools rather than the local school districts making decisions based on local health situations.

“The U.S. is the only major country that is saying that this has to be forced on people by the government,” DeSantis said.

However, the final determiner on whether the Sarasota County School Board actually broke state law will be the Florida Department of Education, which previously admonished the districts in Alachua and Broward counties for their mandates.

In those cases, the department said it would withhold from state funds on a monthly basis if the schools did not comply, acting within the authority it has from DeSantis’ order.

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