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DeSantis enacts new laws on school mask, vaccine mandates

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Fiona Lashells, 8, speaks during a press conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis beside her before before he signs bills to limit COVID-19 vaccine mandates on private, state government employees and school districts at Brandon Honda in in Brandon on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Fiona missed weeks of school in Palm Beach County because of her refusal to follow the district's mask mandate.
Fiona Lashells, 8, speaks during a press conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis beside her before before he signs bills to limit COVID-19 vaccine mandates on private, state government employees and school districts at Brandon Honda in in Brandon on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Fiona missed weeks of school in Palm Beach County because of her refusal to follow the district's mask mandate. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Nov. 19

Florida has new laws about COVID-19 protocols in schools. Mask mandates are no longer allowed, but you can wear a mask if you want. Quarantines of asymptomatic students without a positive test result? Forget about it. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law on Thursday. Read on for the latest on that story and more Florida education news. • As a side note, there won’t be a news roundup next week. Enjoy your holiday.

DeSantis said he signed the laws to protect Floridians’ personal freedoms. “This is a personal choice,” he said. More from Florida Phoenix.

Districts quickly moved to implement the new rules. The Duval County school district lifted its requirement of a mask opt-out form effective immediately, First Coast News reports. • The Orange County school district took a similar step, WKMG reports, as did the Alachua County school district, Main Street Daily News reports. • The Palm Beach County school district dropped its mask requirement for visitors and volunteers, WPEC reports.

The latest law did not win universal support. Some central Florida parents and health professionals expressed concerns that the state had put politics ahead of science, Spectrum 13 reports.

The masking issue remains in the courts. Lawyers for the Alachua County school district and parents challenging its rule faced off again Wednesday, the Gainesville Sun reports.

More coronavirus concerns

Like most districts, Marion County schools experienced a bus driver shortage heightened by the pandemic. They’re planning an all out “blitz” to recruit more drivers in early December, WKMG reports.

Many schools have seen student behavior worsening as students returned to campuses. Seminole County schools have recorded 22 more student fights than two years ago, WFTV reports.

The federal government has provided relief funds to help schools get back on track. The St. Johns County school district is asking residents for ideas how to spend its $20million share, WJXT reports.

Hot topics

Academic freedom: A U.S. House committee is taking a closer look at whether the University of Florida violated its professors’ First Amendment rights.

Race relations: A Monroe County high school is coping with a situation that residents have called toxic and hostile, Keys Weekly reports. It included someone painting “white” and “colored” above adjacent water fountains. • The Seminole County school district is naming a building at Sanford Middle School after the first Black student who integrated the district, WKMG reports. • A Flagler County School Board member has dropped her opposition to using the word “equity” in the district’s strategic planning, Flagler Live reports.

Book challenges: The Collier County School Board has asked the state Supreme Court to review a case in which the board was accused of violating state rules on textbook evaluation, the News Service of Florida reports.

Long drop-off lines: Parents at a Lee County elementary school complained that law enforcement have started issuing tickets if they drop their students in unauthorized areas, WFTX reports. Some said they didn’t know they were doing anything wrong.

From the court docket ... A former Miami-Dade County teacher pleaded guilty to two felony counts of sexual battery on a former student, the Miami Herald reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s the link to yesterday’s roundup.

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