As promised, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order on Friday ensuring that parents, and not education bureaucrats, would be the ones to determine whether their children need to mask up when school resumes.
DeSantis had declared at an event earlier in the day: “I want to empower parents to make the best decisions they can for the well-being of their children.” He went on to say, “There will be no lockdowns, there will be no school closures, there will be no restrictions and no mandates in the state of Florida.”
The audience at the event cheered, and parents across the state no doubt joined them in thanking DeSantis for standing up for their parental rights—and for the right of children to breathe clean air, unhindered by filthy masks.
In Section 1 of the order, DeSantis directed the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Education to use “all legal means available” to ensure that the state’s schools do not “violate Floridians’ constitutional freedoms” or “violate parents’ right under Florida law to make health care decisions for their minor children.” The order further mandates that schools “protect children with disabilities or health conditions who would be harmed by certain protocols such as face masking requirements.”
But that’s not all. Gov. DeSantis’ order has teeth. Big ones. Schools that deny parents the right to make health decisions on behalf of their children, including masking decisions, are going to be in a world of hurt.
Second 3: The Florida Commissioner of Education shall pursue all legal means available to ensure school districts adhere to Florida law, including but not limited to withholding state funds from noncompliant school boards violating any rules or agency action taken pursuant to Section 1 above.
That’s right. Schools that force students to mask up against the parents’ wishes, or otherwise violate parental rights, could be defunded by the state of Florida. The state currently kicks in nearly 40% of every school district’s budget, so if schools continue to insist on masking—as many Florida schools did last year, even though it wasn’t required—they’ll have to make up for the loss of nearly half their funding.
No doubt some school districts will waste no time in asking courts to step in to invalidate DeSantis’ order—for the children—but the governor seems to be on solid footing here in light of the Parents’ Bill of Rights he recently signed into law. The law prohibits institutions, including schools, from infringing on the “fundamental rights of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of his or her minor child.” And constitutional conservatives take note: DeSantis did this in just the right way. He got the legislature to pass a bill protecting parents rights, signed it into law, and now is ordering state agencies to promulgate rules to ensure the duly passed law is followed. It’s truly a beautiful thing to behold in an age where government officials routinely sign executive orders and punt them over to the courts to sort out.
For what it’s worth, the Supreme Court of the United States has a long history of upholding parent rights, particularly when it comes to the education of children. That said, a troubling 2020 decision granting visitation rights to grandparents has court-watchers and parental rights advocates alike wondering when the next shoe will drop to erode the rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children. That case, Troxel v. Grandville, cited the “best interest of the child” to override the mother’s right to determine how often the grandparents visited with her daughters. No doubt there are lawyers ready to pounce on DeSantis’ order, claiming that COVID restrictions are in the best interest of the children and should therefore override the rights of parents.
At any rate, DeSantis’ decision is an important one as children prepare to return to school next month. Parents will now be in charge, not public health and education bureaucrats. It’s a shame more governors aren’t following Florida’s lead in returning the power to parents, where it rightly belongs.