Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis has threatened to withhold salaries from school leaders who enact or enforce mask mandates on their pupils.
DeSanctis, a Republican, close friend to Donald Trump and heavy critic of Covid-19 restrictions, earlier issued an order against such policies in schools, but some districts in Florida have pushed back, saying their pupils must still mask up.
The ensuing drama comes as schools begin their new academic year with school authorities scared that the Delta variant will affect younger groups.
Scientifically though, there is no evidence the Delta variant is more severe in children. Just 1% of US children infected with coronavirus end up in hospital and 0.01% die, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In a statement on Tuesday, August 10, DeSanctis said the state board of education “could move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members” if they issue rules requiring children to wear face masks. Teachers or other school staff would not be affected.
In Mr DeSantis’ previous order in July, he said forcing masks on students would encroach on parents’ rights.
The same day, one of Florida’s largest government-run school districts announced that students must wear masks for the beginning of the school year, unless they have a excuse from a doctor or psychologist.
“Heaven forbid we lost a child to this virus, I can’t just simply blame the governor of the state of Florida – I just can’t,” said Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna during a live-streamed news conference .
Public health experts say masks are needed to prevent the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant – especially as the vaccines are not yet approved for children under the age of 12.