A photo op can cause serious problems. That’s why this week, Panhandle emergency responders were blocking a group of high school cheerleaders from entering Panhandle beaches when it was billed as a disaster drill.
Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis blamed the delay on a cheerleading coach who was using the drill to reinforce a morning swim team class on the beach. The coach thought they had to be present to start practice on time. Instead, everyone was, and the cancellations led to a ripple effect with local businesses losing their customers.
Though Nienhuis stopped short of denying that the Drill was staged as a way to demonstrate the effectiveness of a ban on masks in schools (such as caps and hoods), he did deny that Florida law requires school districts to offer the exercise. A state representative from the Panhandle disagreed.
The Florida Bureau of Emergency Management had stated last week that the ban is mandated for safety reasons.
Now Florida’s new surgeon general Ronny Jackson is chiming in on the issue. While he said he’s in favor of developing a more “risk-appropriate” decision based on local circumstances, he said data does not support mandating masks in the classroom.
In an interview with Fox News, he said the results of prior studies are mixed, and he pointed to a July 2016 survey, to which he said he could not speak specifically, which found that 86 percent of respondents wanted to retain the ban.
“If I were to make the decision to let a community decide how to best protect its kids, I would probably have to go back and look at the data that has been released over the last six years, and you can make your own decision on what’s best for that community,” he said.
Students at seven Tampa Bay area high schools wore masks during the past two school years, the Tampa Bay Times reported. A Florida health group circulated a petition calling for a permanent ban on face-covering devices, and then Orange County School Board members approved a plan in April to keep schools indoor during recess time. Board member Joshua Stephens said they feared masks could send students into “environmental distress.”
Of course, the Florida Board of Education isn’t entirely a flummoxed hive of narrow thinking. In June, they eliminated history standards that covered the role of African-Americans, saying it conflicts with learning about “traditional Americans.” Additionally, State Board Chairman Bill Proctor, a Republican, said he has issues with substitute teachers bringing their own on-site supplies to classrooms, saying there needs to be more uniformity in their purchases.