Gov. DeSantis says mask mandate at Hillsborough County schools is political, not justified

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis fired back at the Hillsborough County School Board on Thursday, one day after the board voted to require masks be worn in all district school buildings.

“I think it’s more political. I think it’s to get on CNN and stuff for some of these local controlled politicians, but I think that is not something that is justified,” DeSantis said during a news conference.

The governor believes children should not be required by districts to wear masks. He says the choice should be left up to parents.

“My view is that the parents understand for their kids. Some of these kids, particularly young kids, don’t even wear the mask properly,” he said. “I mean, lets just be honest here, a kindergartener is not going to wear it even properly.”

The number of students and staff quarantined after exposure to the virus surged again on Thursday. As of 3 p.m., more than 12,300 students and staff were told to stay at home under the district’s quarantine guidelines. That is 2,000 more students and staff than the number under quarantine on Wednesday.

School Board member Jessica Vaughn says she no longer feels safe after expressing her opinions on mask guidelines.

“I don’t feel safe from COVID, I don’t feel safe from some of the behavior I’ve seen and school board meetings all around the state, and things have gotten violent and there have been threats made against officials for trying to do their job,” Vaughn said.

Still, not all students in the county will be wearing masks.

Burton Phillips says when he arrived at the Independence Academy Charter School to drop his son off for school on Thursday morning, he noticed few children were wearing masks. He called the school after the drop-off and was advised they will not be following the new county mask mandate.

“She advised me that they don’t have to follow Hillsborough County guidance and the mandate,” said Phillips.

As the number of COVID cases surges in the county, classroom teachers are becoming more concerned.

“They are frustrated and they are frightened for their students,” said Rob Kriete with the Hillsborough County Classroom Teachers Association.

Kriete says the high number of students and staff on quarantine is having a real impact on education.

“Now they are saddled with a half a class, a fraction of a class, whole classes that are being sent home to quarantine because of the COVID conditions we have here in Hillsborough,” said Kriete.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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