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DeSantis Enforces Executive Order To Have Final Say On Masks. But Some Local Officials Are Fighting To Change That

Girl in mask at school
Pasco County Schools
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A few Florida school systems are defying the order and they’re challenging the governor’s policy in court.

On this week’s Florida Matters, we’ll get an update on the legal fight over masks in schools and we’ll explore the broad issues of state preemption.

To mask, or not to mask. That’s the fight playing out right now between Florida school districts and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Doctors and public health experts say masks are needed to slow the spread of COVID-19 among children, many of whom are not old enough to get a vaccine.

But DeSantis insists mask wearing is a personal issue that should be left up to parents.

He’s issued an executive order that prevents school districts from requiring face coverings. But a few Florida school systems are defying that order, and they’re challenging the governor’s policy in court.

It’s the latest example of a Republican-controlled state government that’s at odds with local officials, mainly Democrats.

First, host Bradley George speaks with Jessica Bakeman, an education reporter at WLRN in Miami. She’s been covering the back and forth between state officials and local school boards.

Parents across the state have filed lawsuits to combat DeSantis’s order, Bakeman says, but those are now stalled in court, likely to be decided well after all Florida students will be back in school.

RELATED: Tallahassee Takeover Podcast from WLRN

Local control is enshrined in the state constitution and therefore is protected, according to Florida State University law professor Sarah Swan. But Florida is becoming increasingly aggressive in using a loophole to revoke that home rule, Swan says.

George speaks with her later in the episode about the history of preemption in Florida.

She says now is a critical time to see how Florida’s justice system will handle the tug of war between state and local government. The result could change how laws are enforced in the future.

You can listen to Bradley’s full conversations with Bakeman and Swan by clicking on the “Listen” button. Or you can listen to the WUSF app under “Programs & Podcasts.”

Dinorah Prevost is the producer of Florida Matters, WUSF's weekly public affairs show.
Bradley George comes to WUSF from Atlanta, where he was a reporter, host, and editor at Georgia Public Broadcasting. While in Atlanta, he reported for NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now, and The Takeaway. His work has been recognized by PRNDI, the Georgia Associated Press, and the Atlanta Press Club. Prior to his time in Georgia, Bradley worked at public radio stations in Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina.