The first day of Brevard Public Schools’ new mask mandate passed peacefully, a district spokesman said, while Florida Rep. Randy Fine and some Facebook posters said some unmasked children were denied entry to schools.
The mandate will remain in place for 30 days, but a five-day grace period is included for students who need a medical exemption to attend school without a mask.
State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who has long opposed mask mandates in public schools, asked parents in a midday Facebook post to call his office if they were having trouble with the mask requirement.
Fine said he saw several social media reports of children being sent home for not wearing masks prior to writing the post. He said he and School Board Vice Chair Matt Susin, who was one of two members who voted against the mask mandate, were tracking the incidents.
As of 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, Fine said his office has received over 20 calls and many emails. Some people replied to his Facebook post saying they saw unmasked children denied entry at various Brevard schools.
The policy passed by the School Board allows for a five-day grace period for children who need a medical exemption to attend school without a mask. BPS spokesman Bruhn said children who arrive without masks are being told that a mask mandate is in place, but the grace period means they are not denied entry. They are, however, reminded of the new policy. Bruhn said some parents may have voluntarily taken their children home after hearing this.
“There are no parents sending their kids to be protesters,” Bruhn said. “That hasn’t happened. Our hope is that parents won’t use their children as some sort of political tool. Our goal is to educate them and keep them safe.”
Fine also posted on Facebook that unmasked children were being denied lunch, and said in a phone interview that it happened at Space Coast Junior and Senior High School.
Bruhn said the report was inaccurate.
“I talked with the principal and that did not happen,” Bruhn said. “Nobody was denied access. Nobody was banned. Nobody was told they can’t eat food. It’s not correct.”
“It may get to a point where a very small percentage of parents want to use their children as political pawns and have them test the system,” Bruhn said. “Our hope is that doesn’t happen. Our hope is that we’re able to have masks for a short period of time and are able to slow the spread of COVID and move on to, hopefully, what will be a better school year compared to what we’re seeing right now with the COVID numbers.”