Florida officials vote to punish school districts that defied Gov. DeSantis' ban on mask mandates

School children walk with masks and backpacks on.
In this Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021 file photo, Students, some wearing protective masks, arrive for the first day of school at Sessums Elementary School in Riverview, Fla. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File
  • The Florida Board of Education voted Tuesday to punish two school districts that broke state law by requiring masks.

  • Broward County and Alachua County school districts both defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' order by requiring masks in schools.

  • It is not yet clear what penalties the districts will face.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Florida education officials voted Tuesday to punish two school districts in the state that violated Gov. Ron DeSantis' law banning mask mandates in school by requiring students without approved exemptions to wear them at school.

Members of the state's Board of Education, who are appointed by the governor, said they will impose penalties on Broward County and Alachua County school districts, The Washington Post reported. The decision is the first punitive move made against school districts since DeSantis threatened to withhold paychecks from districts that shirked the law last week.

It was not yet clear what penalties the districts will face.

Last week, the Broward County School Board voted 8-1 to keep its mask mandate in schools after slamming DeSantis' efforts to block schools from doing so. Superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools, Carlee Simon, followed suit, declaring her intent to defy the ban, even if it means her district loses funding.

DeSantis, for his part, has painted his opposition toward school mask mandates as a fight for parent rights, and despite growing resistance and polling that suggests majority support for required masking in public places, the Republican governor has refused to back down.

The showdown over masking in schools comes as Florida battles an alarming surge of COVID-19 cases. An outbreak at Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa left more than 5,500 students forced to quarantine less than one week after kids returned to school.

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