Florida Moms Removed From School Board Meeting for Repeatedly Refusing to Wear Masks

A group of maskless mothers in Florida, where masks are recommended but not required in public spaces, have been removed by police from a Volusia County School Board meeting held in the city of DeLand. The meeting discussed an extension of the school district's current mask mandate.

The women repeatedly ignored requests for them to wear face-coverings at the meeting, according to Volusia County Schools. Face-coverings must be worn by "all students, employees, visitors, vendors or any other persons, while in or on school board property," when social distancing guidelines cannot be maintained, the school board said.

No arrests were made but seven people were trespassed from the meeting, which means they are prohibited from returning to the property for a year.

Speaking to Newsweek, Nancy H. Wait, the facilitator for volunteer/partnership programs at Volusia County Schools, said: "They [the mothers] were asked many times by several different people to comply with the face-covering policy or leave the meeting room, but they were clearly taking a stand against face-coverings.

"Their actions became very disruptive, which delayed the start of the board meeting for over one hour. Police were called to assist because they refused to leave when they were trespassed from the property," Wait said.

The women claimed to have medical exemptions that permit them to not wear face-coverings in public, according to a video of the incident shared by a reporter for Florida's News 6, Loren Korn, on her Facebook page.

Rachael Cohen, one of the women, said: "We're not here to protest, we're here to speak...we've already talked to the lawyer from the city and he's already told us if you have a medical reason you do not need to wear a mask. This is not OK.

"This is called coercion. This is called a return to previous times in history, I won't label them. We live in a free country, this is a free city. DeLand city told us we don't have to do this.

"It needs to be an option. If children come from families that want them to be masked, everyone has that right. We're not asking to take that right away. We're asking to be given the right to medical choice."

As Cohen was being escorted out of the building by officers from the DeLand Police Department, she said: "I'm being pulled out of the room...this is America 2020, I'm arrested for sitting in a room.

In a Facebook live video shared by Cohen at the time of the incident, she told an officer: "No, I will not walk outside. I'm not leaving this building. [Florida] Gov. [Ron] DeSantis needs to see this, this is what's happening in his state. I hope that President Trump sees this as well. This is not what we stand for as a country."

"I've never put a mask on my face, and I never will," Cohen said in the Facebook video.

This is footage of mothers being trespassed and dragged out from the Volusia County Board of Education in Florida. 7 women and I refused to wear a mask...

Wait told Newsweek: "We are following the advice of our local health department, as well as CDC [Center for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines. Once the meeting was able to begin, the school board did adopt the mandatory face-covering policy."

Last month, DeLand's City Commission issued a mask ordinance requiring residents and visitors to wear masks in public.

"As cases continue to rise in DeLand at an alarming rate, the City Commission felt compelled to take additional steps to fight the spread of COVID-19 within our community," DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar said in a statement at the time. Certain exemptions, including medical conditions, apply.

Tyranny is alive and well in Volusia County, FL

Back in June, Florida's state health department issued an updated public health advisory noting: "All individuals in Florida should wear masks in any setting where social distancing is not possible," apart from exceptional circumstances including medical reasons.

The latest incident comes as total confirmed cases in Florida approach nearly 790,500, with 16,571 reported deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

Average daily new cases in Florida were reported to have increased in the latest two-week period from October 14 to 27. The average count declined from mid-July, when it peaked at 11,870 on July 14, before flattening out from early September, according to data compiled by JHU.

Miami Florida art face masks May 2020
Artwork featuring a face mask displayed on a board covering the 11th Street Diner on May 4 in Miami Beach, Florida. A group of maskless women in DeLand, Florida were removed from a school board meeting after refusing to wear face-coverings. Getty Images

The wider picture

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 44.1 million people across the globe since it was first reported in Wuhan, China, including over 8.8 million in the U.S. Globally, more than 1.1 million have died following infection, while more than 29.8 million have reportedly recovered as of Wednesday, according to JHU.

The graphic below, produced by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

Spread of COVID-19 in U.S.