Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis banned school mask mandates, and threatened to withhold funds.
One school official from the US's seventh largest district said that the chaos caused panic and chaos among parents.
She stated, "We should be able to make decisions for people who elected us,"
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According to a school board member representing the seventh largest school district in the country, Florida Governor. Ron DeSantis's handling COVID-19 has created panic and chaos among parents and school staff.
Jessica Vaughn said that the governor of COVID is "the mad king" to Insider. It feels like a nightmare that I can't get out of."
Vaughn is a member of the Hillsborough County Public Schools board, which is based in Tampa, Florida. It is the third largest district in Florida. There, school officials are caught up in a fight with the governor over masks.
DeSantis threatened to stop funding schools that required masks, and banned school mask mandates just weeks before students returned. This order is contrary to the current guidance of the CDC which recommends that all students and staff wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.
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DeSantis intensified his anti-mask crusade on Monday, just days before Florida students returned to school. He threatened to withhold the paychecks of school officials who flouted his ban.
Vaughn stated that the ban and timing of the announcement made it difficult for school districts to get their children back to school in the most safe way possible, especially with the Delta variant tearing through the state. She stated that parents are "hysterical", trying to decide whether their children should be attending school.
"You panicked parents, people who feel like they have two choices: send my child to school in a potentially dangerous, dangerous environment, where they can get very sick, or bring home sickness? She said.
Vaughn stated that the school didn't consider a mask mandate in July. However, the more transmissible Delta variant has changed everything in the last few weeks. This is causing an increase in infections among children.
She stated that parents pressured her to require masks, and she was certain it would be right. "But before we could really pivot, the governor came down hard and early with his threats."
Vaughn stated that some parents opposed masks in their district, which led to heated school board meetings in which members were called "Nazis", "fascists," and accused of child abuse for suggesting masks.
She said that the board gets twice as many emails each week from parents of pro-mask children who are afraid to attend meetings or be in close quarters with sometimes aggressive anti-maskers.
Vaughn stated that DeSantis not only ignores the concerns of parents in her community and healthcare providers, but is also making it difficult for officials like herself to govern at the local level.
She stated that "we should be able to make decisions for people who elected us," and added that DeSantis' ban is an overreach by the state government. This prevents local communities from making the best decision for themselves. She stated that it is the same thing DeSantis does to states.
DeSantis has fought hard to ensure Florida's independence during the pandemic. He sued the Biden administration as well as the CDC for restrictions on cruise ships.
Insider reached out to DeSantis's Office for comment.
Vaughn stated that the disconnect between the state's actions and the needs of her community is too great. This led some parents to wonder: "How can this be happening?"
She shared their despair: "I don’t know how we got here where it’s okay to gamble our children’s safety and health," Vaughn stated.
The parents in her district begged the board for help, but the superintendent said that the district could not lose even one cent of state funding. The governor has been ignored and the district is doing its best to reduce COVID-19 transmission.
If the first week back was anything to go by, it will be a difficult battle. After only four days, almost 4,500 students were placed under quarantine or isolation orders following a positive test. Nearly 500 teachers and students reported that they had tested positive for COVID-19.
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