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Miami Dade Supt. Carvalho Says Threats Over Student Mask Policies, 'Do Not Cause Fear In Me'

Alberto Carvalho
Wilfredo Lee
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho speaks during a news conference before handing out COVID-19 home rapid testing supplies to representatives from different schools in the district, Thursday, May 20, 2021, at the Frederick Douglass Elementary School in the Overtown neighborhood of Miami. The school district and eMed, a local Miami telehealth company partnered to provide 1,000 free tests to students, teachers in the neighborhood (May 20, 2021).

Florida’s largest school district is joining Alachua and Broward in requiring students to wear face coverings. The moves go against an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis requiring such policies to be voluntary.

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says he’s not scared of blowback from the Governor, or the state board of education.

Carvalho addressed the Florida Board of Education Wednesday, a day after the group voted to further investigate Broward and Alachua for defying DeSantis’ order and the corresponding rule set by the Florida Department of Health. Carvalho used his life experience to lay out his position on the fight over mandatory student mask policies.

“I have felt fear in my life. When you’re homeless under a bridge, you fear. The conditions before me, today, other than the impact to health, do not cause fear in me," he said, adding that the consequences for going against DeSantis, “I will wear proudly as a badge of honor.”

Districts are under threat of defunding, and board members and superintendents risk being removed from office. Carvalho’s comments come a day after the board blasted the leaders of Alachua and Broward County Schools. In those districts, families can only opt out of the mask policy with a medical excuse. State board members, along with Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, believe those medical opt-outs are a violation of the Florida Department of Health’s rules on mask wearing.

"In regard to the school boards contemplating whether to change their policies to be non-compliant…the state board of education is responsible for ensuring uniform standards across the state. And we cannot have a state where some school districts are opting to follow the law and some are not," said board Vice Chairman Ben Gibson.

The fight over masks has disrupted local school board meetings, caused some districts to water down their policies under threat of budget cuts and removal from office, and sparked at least two lawsuits. A Leon County judge is slated to hear arguments over dismissing one of those lawsuits Aug. 19 at 2 p.m.

Updated: August 18, 2021 at 8:41 PM EDT
This story has been updated to reflect that Miami Dade Public Schools has passed a mandatory student mask policy.
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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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