DORAL, FL – Florida students who oppose to wearing face coverings will now be able to use private school vouchers to transfer from the public school system.
Florida’s Board of Education approved an emergency rule Friday to expand the Hope Scholarship Program in order to include those students who no longer wish to stay in their public schools due to harassment over refusing to follow mask requirements.
“‘COVID-19 harassment’ means any threatening, discriminatory, insulting, or dehumanizing verbal, written or physical conduct an individual student suffers in relation to, or as a result of, school district protocols for COVID-19, including masking requirements, the separation or isolation of students, or COVID-19 testing requirements, that have the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance,” the rule reads.
The order comes after Governor Ron DeSantis and state education officials agreed that parents should be the ones making decisions regarding their children’s health and education. This rule is intended to offer other alternatives for those families who’s schools districts are enforcing mask wearing.
In Florida, two school districts have decided to follow guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that has spoken about the importance of using face masks to avoid the spread of the coronavirus in the midst of the Delta variant that is rapidly increasing cases among the population.
School boards in Duval County in Jacksonville, and Alachua County in Gainesville, decided this week to require mask-wearing indoors because of the rise in hospitalizations.
The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 rose from 12,516 on Thursday to 12,864, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and now Florida leads the country in COVID-19 related hospitalizations.
But school districts in South Florida haven’t decided yet. Broward County School Board has said it will require students to use face masks when classes resume but reversed that decision at the beginning of this week fearing they could lose funding. The district could make a final decision on a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools, on the other hand, confirmed the decision on mask wearing will be announced next week. Students return to class on August 23, five days later than Broward.
The Hope Scholarship program was originally intended to offer vouchers to students who have been the victims of bullying but now parents can use private school vouchers if they don’t feel comfortable about how their kids are being treated over not agreeing with the schools mask mandates.