School Districts In Texas And Florida Are Defying Their Governors’ Anti-Mask Orders

Republican governors in Texas and Florida have imposed bans on mask mandates despite a spike in COVID-19 infections among children. However, that’s not stopping many school districts from defying them. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning any mask mandate in schools in May. In July, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did the same and threatened to withhold funds for schools requiring student masks. The orders come while the states are epicenters of the new, highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus, leading to cases and hospitalizations rising to record-breaking levels.

For the 11th consecutive day Wednesday, Florida broke its record for current COVID-19 hospitalizations at 15,449 ― accounting for 28% of all hospitalizations among the 232 hospitals reporting their data to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The state also saw 24,753 new cases on Wednesday, breaking a record for the third time this week. Texas recorded an increase in new cases, with 14,214 newly confirmed cases and 3,684 new probable cases on Wednesday. As of Tuesday, at least 10,463 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Texas, taking up about 16% of total hospital beds.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone wear a mask in indoor public spaces in “areas with substantial and high transmission,” including schools. But DeSantis and Abbott maintain that their orders are meant to let parents decide whether to have their children wear masks to school. As the delta variant of the virus spreads across both states and the rest of the South, health officials have noticed severe infections among children ― an age group once considered less at risk of severe COVID-19 illnesses. And at a time when children younger than 12 are yet to be eligible for the vaccine, Abbott has said Texas won’t require schools to notify parents of COVID-19 cases.


“We saw 12 positive cases in June; in the first week of July, we saw more cases than in June. Are seeing about 100 cases a week,” Dr. Joseph Perno, vice president of medical affairs at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in Florida, told WFLA-TV on Wednesday. Perno and other pediatricians have expressed worry that the numbers will continue to rise as school begins. A young boy wears a face mask as he arrives with his mother on the first day of classes for the 2021-22 school year at Baldwin Park Elementary School in Orlando, Florida. Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in Florida, Orange County public schools have implemented a face mask mandate for students for 30 days unless a parent chooses to opt out.

Despite the two governors’ orders, school districts are fighting back in growing numbers and imposing mask mandates in defiance ― risking backlash from the state government to protect students from the deadly virus. On Monday, the Dallas school district became the first in Texas to issue a mask mandate, declaring that Abbott’s order “does not limit the district’s rights as an employer and educational institution to establish reasonable and necessary safety rules for its staff and students.” The Austin Independent School District, the second-largest in the state, followed suit by requiring universal masking regardless of an individual’s age or vaccination status.

Since then, nearly two dozen school districts in Texas have decided to require masks for the new school year. After suing Abbott, Bexar County and its county seat of San Antonio won a court battle Tuesday to have the authority to mandate masks in public schools. Harris County, which includes Houston and has the state’s largest school district, is expected to sue Abbott for the same authority. On Wednesday, the Texas Tribune reported that Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins signed an executive order requiring masks in schools and businesses. Hours later, Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced their plan to block Jenkins in court.

“This isn’t the first time we have dealt with activist characters. It’s deja vu,” Paxton said. “Attention-grabbing judges and mayors had defied executive orders before, when the pandemic started, and the courts ruled on our side ― the law. I’m confident the outcomes to any suits will include liberty and individual choice, not mandates and government overreach.” Abbott and Paxton’s response did not mention that their order is also a mandate considered by many local institutions as government overreach.

DeSantis tried the same argument of “government overreach” when the White House hinted it could use federal funds to help Florida schools that decide to impose mask mandates. The governor’s office did not respond to HuffPost’s questions about whether he believed his actions were government overreach with local institutions, an accusation he leveled at the federal government. Gov. DeSantis (R-FL) responds to Press Sec. Psakihintsg at using federal funds for schools with mask mandates: “They want the government to force and to use coercion … The idea that the federal government would get involved in that … would be very inappropriate.” — The Recount (@therecount) August 10, 2021

But just in Texas, many school districts in Florida are defying DeSantis and requiring masks based on public health guidance, despite the governor’s threat to cut funding and withhold superintendents’ salaries. Nearly one 1tendistricts has announced mask rules, though at least two said parents could opt out without a doctor’s note. The school district in Leon County has urged DeSantis to allow a temporary mask mandate after four school-aged children were admitted to hospitals and two pre-kindergarten teachers were admitted into intensive care.

Leaders at Broward County Public Schools are standing by their mask mandate after a brief suspension following DeSantis’s funding threat earlier this week. The district is still reviewing the governor’s mask mandate ban with “variants of coronavirus running rampant in our community,” School Board Chair Rosalind Good said in a video posted to the district’s website. “At no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck,” Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who runs the fourth-largest school district in the nation, said Tuesday. “A small price to pay considering the gravity of this issue and the potential impact on the health and well-being of our students and dedicated employees.”

Tyson Houlding
I’m a lifestyle blogger with a passion for writing, photography, and exploring new places. I started this blog when I was 18 years old to share what I was learning about the world with family and friends. I’ve since grown into a freelance writer, blogger, and photographer with a growing audience. I hope you find inspiration and motivation while reading through my work!