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Hillsborough County Schools says it does not plan on repealing mask mandate

The school district was one of several to receive a letter from the DOE threatening school board members' salaries if they kept the mask rule in place.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County Public Schools says it has no plans to change the school district's current mask mandate, despite a letter from the commissioner of education threatening to withhold the salaries of school board members if it remains.

A spokesperson for the school district says its decision to implement a mask mandate relied on the advice of doctors and public health experts, and in no way violated state law.

In a letter to the superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran stated the school district must respond to him regarding how it is complying with an executive order signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis which bans mask mandates in schools.

DeSantis earlier this summer signed the "Parents' Bill of Rights," aimed at protecting caretakers' choices over a child's health and upbringing. In July, he signed an executive order that banned districts from enacting mask mandates.

However, Hillsborough County Public Schools says its policy allows parents to opt out. The school district requires students, teachers and staff to mask up, with an opt-out available to students for medical reasons as long as they submit a doctor's note.

"The health and safety of our students, families, teachers, and staff is very important to the Board; the medical experts advised the Board that vaccines and facial coverings were the two most effective tools to control the spread of COVID-19 in schools. The Board’s emergency rule is consistent with state law as the emergency rule provides for a parental opt-out of the facial covering requirement with a medical certificate. The facial covering requirement appears to be working as the number of students and staff in isolation and quarantine and the number of reported COVID-19 cases in our schools have gone down since the requirement was put in place," Hillsborough County Public Schools said in a statement.

The school district also added that a judge recently ruled against DeSantis' ban on masks, stating that the "State Department of Education could not enforce a blanket ban on masks." 

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