FL School Board Chair Defends Mask Mandates Amid Governor’s ‘Horrible’ Threats

SURFSIDE, FLORIDA - AUGUST 10: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis arrives for a ceremony to present bonus checks to first responders held at the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside on August 10, 2021 in Surfside, Florida. DeSantis gav... SURFSIDE, FLORIDA - AUGUST 10: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis arrives for a ceremony to present bonus checks to first responders held at the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside on August 10, 2021 in Surfside, Florida. DeSantis gave out some of the $1,000 checks that the Florida state budget passed for both first responders and teachers across the state. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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August 15, 2021 3:50 p.m.

Dr. Rosalind Osgood, Broward County School Board chair, on Sunday outlined the district’s decision to impose a mask mandate despite Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) ban on school mask mandates.

During an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Osgood was pressed on why the school board implemented a mask mandate and whether she is heartened to see other school districts in the state make the same decision.

Osgood pointed to the 8-9 vote by the school board in favor of issuing a mask mandate, saying that members “believe in science.”

“We’re living out the nightmare of the COVID pandemic, where so many people in our county, including members of our staff and others, are being impacted,” Osgood said.

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Osgood added that the district lost two teachers and one educational support professional to COVID-19, with some others who have been hospitalized.

Osgood argued that the school board has a “constitutional obligation” to protect the students and staff, before saying that it has received “really dramatic and horrible” threats from the Florida governor over mask mandates.

“It’s been really, really dramatic and horrible to be put in this position. But at the end of the day, lives are invaluable and we have to make sure that we use the tools that we can to mitigate the damage of this pandemic,” Osgood said. “We know that we want everybody to be vaccinated, but that’s not the reality.”

Osgood further defended the move to issue mask mandates by mentioning that local school boards don’t believe they have the authority to mandate vaccinations, but are investigating whether they can mandate vaccinations for staff since they can’t do so for students.

“So when you have a population of about 50 plus thousand of students that are 12 and under that don’t have an option for vaccinations, you have staff with pre-existing conditions, you have children that have medical conditions, we believe that masks is a tool that will help us mitigate the spread of COVID,” Osgood said. “When you bring students and staff into a classroom environment, a school bus environment, we have to protect them at all costs.”

Asked about DeSantis’ threat to withhold salaries from school district leaders for defying his ban on mask mandates and the Biden administration’s support for implementing the public health measure, Osgood said she had spoken to White House COVID pandemic task force senior policy adviser Mary Wall on Saturday and cited Education Secretary Miguel Cardona’s letter to DeSantis that reaffirmed the administration backs school mask mandates as the Delta variant prompts spikes in COVID-19 cases nationwide.

“It was very encouraging to get the support of the White House during this very, very difficult time that we find ourselves in,” Osgood said.

Osgood’s remarks come days after Cardona wrote in a letter to DeSantis and his Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran that he was “deeply concerned” by the Florida governor’ ban on school mask mandates, and that federal relief funds could be used to replenish dollars that school districts would lose for passing local coronavirus safety measures.

“We are eager to partner with [Florida Department of Education] on any efforts to further our shared goals of protecting the health and safety of students and educators,” Cardona wrote. “If FLDOE does not wish to pursue such an approach, the Department will continue to work directly with the school districts and educators that serve Florida’s students.”

On Friday night, President Biden called Broward County Schools interim superintendent Vickie Cartwright and Arizona Union High School District Superintendent Chad Geston to voice his support for the districts’ move to implement mask mandates, despite statewide bans on masking requirements, according to the Miami Herald.

Watch Osgood’s remarks below:

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