Florida officials have promised to pay for parents to move their children to private schools if they are 'bullied' for not wearing face masks in schools.

The Florida Department of Education approved an emergency rule Friday to hand out private school vouchers to any parent wanting to take their children out of public schools that have enforced mask mandates. 

Such vouchers, offered through the Hope Scholarship, are usually used to move children from schools where they are the victims of bullying.

Under the emergency measure, the vouchers can now be used to move students out of school if they are subjected to so-called 'COVID-19 harassment' - where parents say a school's mask mandate or other COVID-19 restrictions amount to harassment and discrimination of their children.

This marks the latest round of the fight between Governor Ron DeSantis and local school boards in Florida.   

Last Friday, DeSantis issued an executive order banning schools from issuing mask mandates for students when they return to class next month and vowed that Florida will not introduce any new COVID-19 restrictions.

The governor threatened to withhold state funding from school districts if they did not comply.   

COVID-19 cases are surging across the Sunshine State with officials recording the highest tally of new infections Friday since the start of the pandemic and children accounting for around a fifth of all new cases. 

Florida officials have promised to pay for parents to move their children to private schools if they are 'bullied' for not wearing face masks in schools. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at a press conference Thursday

Florida officials have promised to pay for parents to move their children to private schools if they are 'bullied' for not wearing face masks in schools. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at a press conference Thursday 

Florida's Education Board unanimously approved the emergency measure in a meeting Friday allowing parents to request the vouchers if they feel COVID-19 protocols 'pose a health or educational danger to their child,' reported WSVN

'Unnecessarily isolating, quarantining, or subjecting children to physical COVID-19 constraints in schools poses a threat to developmental upbringing and should not occur absent a heightened showing of actual illness or serious risk of illness to other students,' the board said. 

Parents will be able to transfer their child to a private school or to another public school in another school district. 

The rule defines COVID-19 harassment as 'any threatening, discriminatory, insulting, or dehumanizing verbal, written or physical conduct an individual student suffers in relation to, or as a result of, school district protocols for COVID-19, including masking requirements, the separation or isolation of students, or COVID-19 testing requirements, that have the effect of substantially interfering with a student's educational performance.'


The average cost of private school tuition in Florida is $9,157 a year, according to Private School Review

The decision to use a scheme designed to protect bullied children and taxpayer money for parents unhappy with mask rules was slammed by Florida Rep. Omari Hardy.

'Florida's Board of Education just agreed to use taxpayer dollars to pay private school tuition for kids who want to attend schools that don't require masks,' he tweeted. 

'Governor DeSantis & his minions are using their emergency powers to make the emergency worse.'

DeSantis has gone to war with school districts over COVID-19 protocols, banning mask mandates last Friday. 

The Florida Department of Education approved an emergency rule Friday to hand out private school vouchers to any parent wanting to take their children out of public schools that have enforced mask mandates

The Florida Department of Education approved an emergency rule Friday to hand out private school vouchers to any parent wanting to take their children out of public schools that have enforced mask mandates

The governor said in a press conference that parents have the right to decide whether or not their children wear masks in the classroom. 

'Why would we have the government force masks on our kids when many of these kids are already immune through prior infection, they're at virtually zero risk of significant illness and when virtually every school personnel had access to vaccines for months and months?' DeSantis said.  

At least four school districts have defied the order and imposed mask mandates in schools however others bowed to the state's rules. 

Both Gadsden and Broward County school districts announced they would not require students to wear masks - a walk-back on their previous plans. 

Broward County School Board however then changed its mind again saying it will wait for 'further guidance' before making a final decision and that - in the meantime - students are required to wear masks. 

Duval County Public Schools said parents can opt out if they don't want their children wearing masks in its schools.

Protesters in favor of a mask mandate hold signs Tuesday outside the Duval County School Board building

Protesters in favor of a mask mandate hold signs Tuesday outside the Duval County School Board building 

Anti-mask protesters rally outside the Hillsborough County Schools Board meeting at the district office on July 27

Anti-mask protesters rally outside the Hillsborough County Schools Board meeting at the district office on July 27 

Meanwhile, Alachua County Public Schools said it will have a mask mandate but only for the first two weeks of class. 

DeSantis' ability to enforce the executive order has been called into question with legal experts saying it is not an outright ban on mask mandates.

'It is a loosely written riff on the governor's political views on masking and parental rights chock-full of entirely unenforceable 'Whereas' clauses designed to garnish newspaper, television and Twitter soundbites, rather than judicial support in the event of inevitable lawsuits,' legal analyst Paul Callan told CNN

The CDC has recommended all teachers, staff, students and visitors wear face masks in schools regardless of vaccination status as the Delta variant continues to spread across America and most children are yet to get the shot. 

The decision to use the voucher scheme and taxpayer money for parents unhappy with mask rules was slammed by Florida Rep. Omari Hardy

The decision to use the voucher scheme and taxpayer money for parents unhappy with mask rules was slammed by Florida Rep. Omari Hardy

DeSantis' refusal to allow Florida education institutions to comply with the order has drawn the ire of Joe Biden this week.

The president hit out at DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott Wednesday blaming their refusal to embrace mask requirements for the surge in COVID-19 cases in the two Republican states. 

'They should free people to do the right thing, such as allowing teachers to ask students to wear masks,' he continued.

'I say to these governors, please help. But if you're not going to help at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.' 

Abbott has also said there will be no face mask requirements for Texas school children. 

DeSantis fired back, accusing Biden of trying to 'single out Florida' and trying to shift attention to the increase in migrants crossing the southern border.

Joe Biden after driving a Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington Thursday. The president and Florida governor have gone to war over DeSantis' ban on mask mandates in schools

Joe Biden after driving a Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington Thursday. The president and Florida governor have gone to war over DeSantis' ban on mask mandates in schools 

DeSantis slams Biden after he raps Florida for banning mask mandates
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'Why don't you do your job? Why don't you get this border secure?' DeSantis said of Biden Wednesday. 

'And until you do that I don't want to hear a blip about COVID from you.'

He added: 'And I can tell you, Florida, we're a free state. People are going to be free to choose.' 

Tensions ramped up Thursday with Biden responding 'Governor who?' when asked about DeSantis.   

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona also joined in the spat, telling the two governors not to be the reason schools are interrupted.

'Don't be the reason why schools are interrupted. Our students have suffered enough,' Cardona said.

'Politics doesn't have a role in this. Educators know what to do,' he added.  

On Friday Press Secretary Jen Psaki hit out at DeSantis in her press briefing accusing him of 'fundraising' off the back of it. 

'Parents in Florida, parents across the country, should have the ability and the knowledge that their kids are going to school and they're in safe environments that shouldn't be too much to ask,' she added. 

The Florida Hospital Association reported 22,783 new cases Friday - another record high from 21,683 reported on June 30

The Florida Hospital Association reported 22,783 new cases Friday - another record high from 21,683 reported on June 30

Florida set an all-time record for COVID hospitalizations on Friday, with 12,864 hospitalized in a single day

Florida set an all-time record for COVID hospitalizations on Friday, with 12,864 hospitalized in a single day

DeSantis, who is running for a second term in the gubernatorial mansion in next year's election and is seen as a possible 2014 presidential candidate, has blasted out at least two fundraising emails this week, touting his COVID stance. 

White House response coordinator Jeff Zients has said that Florida and Texas make up around one third of all new cases in the US over the last week.

The states are also responsible for more than one-third of new hospitalizations. 

Florida set an all-time record for COVID hospitalizations on Friday, with 12,864 hospitalized in a single day.

The state has been reaching all-time highs since Tuesday when there were 10,389 patients - soaring past the previous peak of 10,170 hospitalizations on July 23 2020. 

The Florida Hospital Association reported 22,783 new cases Friday - another record high from 21,683 reported on June 30. 

The state releases its data just once a week on a Friday and is expected to show an increase in cases for the seventh week in a row.  

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