Hillsborough County Schools superintendent signals no changes in school mask policy

The debate over masks in schools heated up at the Hillsborough County School Board meeting Tuesday, as COVID-19 surges across the country.

Dozens of parents on both sides of the debate spoke during the school board meeting, where many were concerned about the more infectious Delta variant. Others worried that masks are harming their kids' psychological and emotional growth.

"This is spreading among young children and it's spreading fast. It's way more contagious," Alisha Stephens, who has two 10-year-old twin girls and doesn't plan on taking any chances, told FOX 13 before the meeting. "Where we find ourselves today, I feel like it's almost a given that if we keep in place optional masks, most of our children are going to get this at school."

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"Long-term mask-wearing has serious drawbacks and make it harder for young children to learn language. There is also evidence of adverse effects to their mental and medical health," said Dr. Jamie Wynn, who identified herself as a psychologist during the public comment portion of the meeting.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis, however, drew a line in the sand Monday. During a roundtable discussion about masks in schools, the governor said he'd call a special session if any districts mandate face coverings.

"This should absolutely not be imposed. It should not be mandated," the governor said. "If you started to see a push from the feds or some of these local school districts, I know [lawmakers are] interested in coming in, even in a special session to be able to provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely."

Superintendent Addison Davis indicated, due to the governor's threat, he does not plan to change the current plan to make masks optional during the upcoming school year.

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"They would take immediate action related to a special session to make certain that masks continue to be a choice for parents," Davis said during a morning school board workshop.

No decision was expected during Tuesday's board meeting.

Board Chair Lynn Gray told FOX 13, while the district's hands might be tied, she doesn't think the entire board is in complete agreement with Davis, leaving open the possibility that the discussion may not be over.