TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made his frustration with face masks known at a press conference Wednesday morning.
DeSantis was at the University of South Florida to announce funding for cybersecurity education. Before taking the podium to address the audience, the governor scolded a group of high school students behind him who were wearing face masks.
“You do not have to wear those masks,” DeSantis said. “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.”
Hillsborough School District said there were seven students in attendance at the press conference who all attend Middleton High School in Tampa.
“We are excited our students from Middleton High School were highlighted as part of the statewide focus around cybersecurity education,” Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Addison Davis said. “Our Cybersecurity pathway at MHS has had tremendous success through students earning industry certifications, participating in internships and leading the way in computer systems and information technology. 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.”
The Florida governor’s opposition to masks is no secret. He made a series of moves last year to block mask mandates, even signing an executive order withholding state funds from schools that impose them. In February, he endorsed a Florida House proposal to strip $200 million in funding from 12 school districts that defied his order banning mask mandates.
Last month, he also said parents should be given the power to sue school districts if they have a child who “was illegally forced-masked this year in Florida.” DeSantis said students who have speech, emotional and physical problems should also be able to sue.
The governor was with the students Wednesday to announce a $20 million program to create cybersecurity opportunities through the school.
“One of the things we’ve tried to do since I became governor was increase Florida’s competitiveness in terms of workforce education,” DeSantis said. “And that’s really looking to see what’s in high demand. And that’s really a diverse thing, in terms of what’s going on right now.”