School Superintendent Responds After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Scolds Students For Wearing Masks
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
A school superintendent is responding after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was filmed berating students for wearing face masks during a visit to the University of South Florida on Wednesday.
Before a speech, DeSantis was filmed telling a group of high school students standing behind him, “You do not have to wear those masks. I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything and we’ve gotta stop with this COVID theater. So if you want to wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous.”
While some of the students could be seen removing their masks in response to the comments, others kept them on.
In a statement sent to PEOPLE, Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Addison Davis said the district was “proud of the manner in which our students represented themselves,” noting that it is their choice “to protect their health in a way they feel most appropriate.”
According to the district seven children were in attendance at the press conference, which was held to announce funding for cybersecurity education. All of the students attend Tampa’s Middleton High School.
“We are excited our students from Middleton High School were highlighted as part of the statewide focus around cyber security education,” Davis said in the statement. “Our Cyber Security pathway at MHS has had tremendous success through student’s earning industry certifications, participating in internships and leading the way in computer systems and information technology.”
The statement continued: “As always, our students should be valued and celebrated. It is a student and parents’ choice to protect their health in a way they feel most appropriate. We are proud of the manner in which our students represented themselves and our school district.”
While DeSantis is widely rumored to be preparing a 2024 presidential run, he is shot down that speculation, saying in previous interviews that he is “not considering anything beyond doing my job.”
The Republican governor, who narrowly won his 2018 election, is not without controversy.
Still, he’s worked to raise his national profile over the past few years, sometimes by fueling culture-war conflicts similar to former President Donald Trump.
DeSantis has touted his decision not to impose widespread restrictions during the pandemic (though it’s worth noting he did order a statewide lockdown in April 2020) but he has faced much scrutiny for his handling of the virus. He opposed mandating public health measures in the state and attempted to block local leaders’ authority to issue mask mandates in municipalities throughout the state.
Last July, DeSantis issued an order barring local school districts from requiring students to wear masks, despite federal recommendations that all students in kindergarten through 12th grade wear face coverings when they return to the classroom in the fall.
A fundraising group affiliated with DeSantis also released a line of merchandise that takes aim at masks and White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci, such as a $12 “Don’t Fauci My Florida” koozie.