Given that we’re still surviving a global pandemic, it’s no surprise that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people in schools (including students, visitors, teachers, and so on) wear face masks. Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) recommends that everyone over the age of two wear a mask while in school. Given the state of the Republican Party, however, it’s also not surprising that a number of governors have tried to bar their schools from requiring masks.
One example? In July, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order barring government entities from requiring masks or vaccines. Obviously, this mandate applies to public schools. Now, school leaders in Dallas are defying Abbott’s orders and announced that both students and staff will be required to wear masks while in school buildings, as reported by The Washington Post. Even better? Dallas leadership aren’t the only ones defying senseless mask bans.
“Governor 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,” Dallas Independent School District said in a statement, as reported by The New York Times, adding that the ISD is committed to safety for both students and staff. Their commitment to students and bravery don’t exist in isolation, either.
“If we have an opportunity to save one life,” Millard House II, Houston’s schools superintendent said, as reported by the Texas Tribune. “It’s what we should be doing.” With that sentiment in mind, a school board meeting to discuss requiring mask’s in his district is scheduled for this coming week.
In Texas, individuals who violate the executive order are at risk for a fine of up to $1,000.
Two districts are making a similar move in Florida where, you guessed it, another Republican governor instilled another ridiculous mask ban. At the end of July, Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that said states which required face masks risked losing their funding. The DeSantis administration clarified that any loss of funding would not directly affect students, but could come from the salary of school board members or the superintendent who violated the law.
Superintendent Rocky Hanna of the Leon County School District said his priority was keeping students safe amid the state’s rising case numbers. “If something happened and things went sideways for us this week and next week as we started school, and heaven forbid we lost a child to this virus, I can’t just simply blame the governor of the state,” he said. “I can’t.” Hanna added that if he didn’t do what was best for students in his district, then that would be on him.
In speaking to ABC News, Carlee Simon, superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools, said she was following the advice of experts and was letting them guide her decision-making process. “The safety and the security and the quality of instructional hours are what matters right now,” she stated in an interview. In reference to defying the ban on masks, she added, “I know it appears I’m being combative and I don’t want to be combative, but this is the responsibility I have in this position.”
In both districts, students would be allowed to attend school without a mask if they had a signed doctor’s note attesting to a medical need for the child to not wear a mask.
States that have banned schools from requiring masks include South Carolina, Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont, and Utah. And if you’re wondering which states have banned schools from requiring vaccines, by the way, that list includes Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Utah, Montana, and Oklahoma, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. Several of these states, including Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Arizona say they will encourage mask usage and vaccines in spite of not mandating them.
And for the rest of the nation? A growing number of districts are requiring masks. For example, New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago (the three biggest districts in the country) are requiring masks in schools. Other districts that will require masks include DeKalb County, Georgia; San Diego, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Fairfax County, Virginia; Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, Maryland, and Shelby County, Tennessee.