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Florida governor Ron DeSantis stands in front of an American flag as he gives a speech at a podium.

Source: Orlando Sentinel / Getty

 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is catching heat for the way he pressured young high school students to remove their masks during his press conference at the University of Florida. Now, some of the children and their parents are speaking out against the governers questionable behavior.

On Mar. 2, DeSantis, who appeared visibly annoyed, walked up to the group of Hillsborough County High School students, firmly demanding that they remove their masks.

You do not have to wear those masks. I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything. We’ve got to stop with this COVID theater. So if you wanna wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous,” he said, right before he went into his speech.

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Eric Marshall, who was one of the students that attended the conference, told local news station WFLA that he was surprised and shocked by the governor’s brash response.

“This authority figure is asking me to do something that I know is probably going to end up being controversial…so I took mine off,” Eric said. When asked by the reporter if he felt “pressured” to do so, he responded:  “A little. It was more of a pressure of an adult figure asking me to do something.”

Eric’s mother, Dawn Marshall, condemned the governor for his insensitive behavior.

“I am responsible for him and I told him to wear that mask and governor DeSantis, he’s looking at this adult authority and he’s telling me he doesn’t have to wear the mask… It’s just shocking that the governor told these kids to take off their masks, he pretty much said ‘take off the masks stupid’ and ‘take off your masks your parents don’t matter.’.. he’s putting us at risk.”

Similarly, Kevin Brown Sr., the father of another high school freshman who attended the conference, gave a fair warning to DeSantis. “Stop bullying kids,” he told WFLA. Brown Sr. said that he reminds his son constantly that it is “his choice” to wear his mask, despite naysayers like the governor.

 “He made that choice and the governor has no right to tell no kid or no one who they can or can’t wear a mask. He doesn’t have that right,” he added.

His son, 14-year-old Kevin Brown Jr., echoed a similar sentiment.

“I was just thinking, I don’t know if I should take it off or leave it on because it’s the governor. He asked me to take it off but I thought about it and it’s my right to have my mask on,” the young student told the TV news station.

DeSantis has been a firm disbeliever in mask mandates and vaccines. Back in November, the Republican politician dropped all mask mandates for Florida schools, ironically arguing that parents should have a choice over their children’s health care decisions amid the pandemic. The governor is currently up for reelection and is considered to be a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate. 

In late February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced news guidelines on COVID-19 preventative measures around the U.S. The agency said that people living in low-risk areas of the country could ease up on wearing masks. However, the CDC recommended that schoolchildren, in particular, continue to wear masks in high-risk areas.  The agency also stressed the importance of wearing masks indoors and on public transportation. Hillsborough County, where the conference took place, was flagged as a high-risk area by the CDC.

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