Do you know your rights? Ron DeSantis Does.
He has asserted since 2020 that vaccines remain a choice. After the shortest lockdown period in the country he refused any more restrictions. He opened schools prior to other states, resisted pressure for a statewide mask mandate, and refused to close small businesses. The governor questioned emotional and health effects of masks, and stood for a parent’s right to assess that data and their own child’s unique experiences and health needs.
Keep the Schools Open
Ron DeSantis has championed the health and education needs of our children. He has been a staunch advocate for keeping schools open. “I would say that closing schools due to coronavirus is probably the biggest public health blunder in modern American history,” he said during a news conference. In August 2020, DeSantis issued an order for public schools to be open for in-person instruction five days a week, to ensure the wellbeing of our children. Addressing health concerns and the available data on transmission in children, he also pushed against broad scale testing due to unreliability of results.[i]
The state’s largest teacher’s union, Florida Education Association, joined by the NAACP and individual teachers and students, took him to court. After a flurry of litigation, and an initial loss at the trial court level, DeSantis prevailed.[ii]
The govenor’s office continues to fight against learning loss from student lack of access to brick-and-mortar schools. For the 2021-2022 school year he issued orders to prevent unnecessary exclusion of students from in-person learning, and measures to mitigate learning loss while not in brick-and-mortar schools.[iii]
The recent orders also require informed written consent from parents to allow testing of minors in schools.
No Segregation Based on Vaccine Status
DeSantis has stood up against segregation and barriers to participating in the workplace and community at large. On April 2, 2021, DeSantis issued Executive Order Number 21-81, Prohibiting COVID-19 Vaccine Passports. DeSantis asserted “vaccine passports reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy.” Requiring them “for taking part in everyday life-such as attending a sporting event, patronizing a restaurant, or going to a movie theater-would create two classes of citizens based on vaccination.” Prohibiting such a passport protects fundamental rights and privacies as well as the free flow of commerce in the state.
“It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society,” DeSantis said.[iv]
Norwegian Cruise Lines challenged the vaccine passport ban and got an initial favorable ruling but the fight is not over yet. The ruling could be overturned, as happened with the school opening order in 2020. As of this writing, Governor DeSantis is preparing for the next round in the legal ring with an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit to uphold his ban and prohibit Norwegian Cruise Lines from burdening travelers.[v]
Mask Mandate Ban
DeSantis continues to put Orders in place to fend off federal overreach and prohibit discrimination and segregation at the local level based on masking, testing, or vaccination status.
On June 29, 2021, Governor DeSantis signed into law The Parent’s Bill of Rights. This law prevents the state from infringing upon a parent’s fundamental rights to direct the education, upbringing and health care of their children.[vi]Language in the bill was taken directly from Supreme Court cases preserving the fundamental rights of family privacy.[vii]
On July 30, 2021, DeSantis issued Executive Order 21-175, Ensuring Parents’ Freedom to Choose-Mask Mandates. He cited the law known as the Parent’s Bill of Rights in preserving parents right to choose whether their child would be masked in school. “In Florida, we believe that that’s the parents’ decision. Joe Biden thinks the federal government should come in and overrule the parents and force these young kids to wear these masks.”[viii] The mandate ban allows a school to make a rule to encourage masks, as long as any student can opt-out without penalty.[ix]
Critics supporting mandates claim the power to determine whether masks are appropriate lies with public health departments, local counties and schools. They claim the mandate ban violates the FL Constitution provision providing for safe school environments. DeSantis is fighting to keep health decisions closer to home, and he is succeeding.
Two lawsuits were filed on August 6, 2021. A suit brought in state court alleges violations of the Florida Constitution based on the safe schools provision. The second, brought in federal court, alleges violations of disability laws.
And while the Governor is facing legal challenges and bad press over defiance of the order, the majority of districts have accepted the order and are honoring parental right to choose what is best for their children. Of the seventy-four school districts in Florida, only around half a dozen have sought to impose a mandate without opt-out.
Standing for Choice
The Governor instituted the Hope Scholarship, known as a school voucher, to enable any student to transfer to another public or private school if they are experiencing “COVID-19 harassment.” The Wall Street Journal reported that this scholarship makes it “possible for families on all sides of the mask wars to send their kids to a school with Covid policies that match their preferences. It’s a win-win.”[x] The scholarship is available for any parent, no matter what decision they make for their child’s health, to choose the environment that best meets those needs.
“When the wellbeing of our students and our constitutional freedoms are at stake, we will stand up for Florida families,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Giving parents options to make these decisions is not controversial. I’m proud that today we took action to make sure school administrators respect parents’ rights to make educational and healthcare decisions for their families. I will continue to fight to protect Florida’s families from government overreach and to preserve their God-given rights.”[xi]
Floridians have an opportunity to support the governor’s courageous leadership by letting your state and local officials know you want them to hold the line too. Click below to let your voice be heard.
Let your local officials know that you stand with Gov. DeSantis for Constitutional rights. Your action today takes little time but is mighty! SHF will share numbers of supporters and key messages with Governor DeSantis to show him he does not stand alone.