Just in time for a back-to-school lesson in taking down a bully, the Florida Board of Education (FBE) bucked mask mandates by giving families affected by the looming restrictions another option. Parents in the Sunshine State can now access vouchers for private schools by claiming the pandemic rules could be a health concern for their children.
This system has been available to families with a school-aged child who was being bullied. The new rule works around the ever-changing COVID-19 protocols and asserts that pandemic bullying falls under the guidelines. FBE announced the change in an August 6 statement:
“’COVID-19 harassment’ means any threatening, discriminatory, insulting, or dehumanizing verbal, written or physical conduct an individual student suffers in relation to, or as a result of, school district protocols for COVID-19, including masking requirements, the separation or isolation of students, or COVID-19 testing requirements, that have the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance.”
Science Deniers From Science Backgrounds?
Federal and Florida state officials have been at loggerheads over masking during the pandemic. The standoff was ramped up after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended everyone wear masks. Everyone means all children, vaccinated or not, should mask up. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently reported there was a high level of carbon dioxide in studied children:
“The question whether nose and mouth covering increases carbon dioxide in inhaled air is crucial. A large-scale survey in Germany of adverse effects in parents and children using data of 25 930 children has shown that 68% of the participating children had problems when wearing nose and mouth coverings.”
The study says children wear masks between 120 and 390 minutes per day. An acceptable level of carbon dioxide in a closed room is 0.2%, or 2,000 ppm (parts per million). According to the German Federal Environmental Office, anything higher is unacceptable. The study “shows that the value of the child with the lowest carbon dioxide level was 3-fold greater than the limit of 0.2 % by volume.” JAMA published the study on June 30, 2021. It now features a “retracted” watermark across the summary page.
Florida isn’t taking any chances.
What The Man Said
Two of Florida’s school districts are complying with CDC recommendations. And that makes teachers unions and Florida Education Association near giddy with excitement. The FEA shared their views on Twitter: “every county should be empowered to make decisions on how best to keep their students safe in consultation with local health experts and based on the unique needs and circumstances in their area.”
President of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, Wendy Doromal, doesn’t believe parents should have this power and voucher reassignment jeopardizes the overall health of students and teachers:
“You know who’s being bullied? The citizens of this state are being bullied by a governor who refuses them safe and public schools. The teachers and employees of those schools are being bullied, and the parents are being bullied to make a choice.”
Florida Board of Ed member Ben Gibson assured families: “If a parent wants their child to wear a mask at school, they should have that right. If a parent doesn’t want their child to wear a mask at school, they should have that right.” But he also leveled a somewhat veiled threat about those who want to buck the system; the Board of Education could legally hold up transfer of state monies to local districts.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was adamant on choice for parents: “I want to empower parents to be able to make the best decisions they can for the well-being of their children.” He reminded the education system parents would know best “the effect that this would have on their children.”
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.