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Back to school in the middle of a mask fight
02:58 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Florida’s State Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday at an emergency meeting to recommend investigations into two school districts whose mask mandates defy Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Gov. Ron DeSantis

The board authorized the state education commissioner “to take all legal steps” against Alachua and Broward counties for requiring people in their school districts to wear masks.

Those steps could include withholding funds, salaries, removing officers, reviewing district conduct, including how money is being spent for public relations or activities deemed political.

At the hearing, the board said the mandates, which don’t include opt-out provisions for parents, violate state law.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran recommended the board use its enforcement powers to “protect the right of parents to make health and educational decisions for their children.”

The recommended punishments are the first since DeSantis signed an executive order last month that directed the state’s health and education departments to issue rules preventing the implementation of school mask mandates in an effort to “protect parents’ freedom to choose whether their children wear masks.”’

Some other Florida school districts have told parents they are requiring masks unless the parents fill out a form telling officials they don’t want their children to wear masks.

Hillsborough County has such a mandate, but is holding a school board meeting Wednesday after thousands of people were told to go into isolation or quarantine because of more than a thousand Covid-19 cases among students and staff members in the past few weeks.

Earlier this month, the Alachua school board voted to require masks for the first two weeks of classes, citing the rise of Covid-19 cases. On Tuesday, the board extended the mask requirement for another eight weeks.

The district has about 30,000 students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Last week, the Broward County school board voted to maintain the school district’s mask mandate originally approved on July 28. The school system says on its website that it has about 261,000 students.

Wednesday is the first day of school for students.

CNN’s Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.