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Florida Education Board Sanctions 8 School Districts Over Mask Mandates; "This Is Life" With Lisa Ling Examines Legacy of Anti-Asian Hate Crimes. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 08, 2021 - 15:30   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: The Florida Board of Education Thursday voted to sanction eight school districts for enacting mask mandates without giving parents the ability to opt out. Now the board claims the school districts in these counties are violating a Florida Department of Health emergency rule.

Now, each district could be penalized in two ways, one, having funds withheld in an amount that equals 1/12 of all school board member salaries. Or two, withholding any federal grant funds that are meant to make up for the lack of state funding.

Now six other districts filed a petition against the Department of Health challenging the rule that blocks mask mandates. And I'm joined now by two of those petitioners, Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Schools, and Vickie Cartwright, superintendent for Broward County public schools. Welcome to you both.

Let me start with you. Superintendent Carvalho. And I don't want to start with, do mask work -- we know masks work, the science is clear there. The question is the authority of the state to force you to allow an opt out. What's your case?

ALBERTO CARVALHO, SUPERINTENDENT OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY SCHOOLS: Well, I think the science is very compelling. I think we are following both law, science and reason. We have made a decision, approved by our school board that mandatory masks with the appropriate medical accommodations are the right actions to take in as system like ours.

And look, we have evidence that it is working. The positivity rate in our schools is extremely low. The number of students and teachers quarantined is very low, and conditions continue to improve.


Putting us in a position within a couple of weeks to actually reconsider the data, consult with our medical experts, and possibly relax the protocols that are in place right now. There's plenty of science, verified science and studies that show that wearing masks indoors is good public health policy. BLACKWELL: Superintendent Cartwright, the Department of Health cites

its authority to adopt rules governing in the control of preventable, communicable diseases. Do you believe that that rule does not apply here? That they don't have that authority over your district.

VICKIE CARTWRIGHT, SUPERINTENDENT FOR BROWARD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Exactly and it really seems contrary because in the rule that's being made as an emergency rule, the number one, we're trying to figure out under what authority they are trying to enact this as an emergency rule.

In addition to that, we're also trying to figure out how is it that if you're saying that masks -- you know, the parent controls if the child wears a mask or not is a mitigating factor, we're confused by that. Because the fact that the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and so many other doctors, professionals are telling us that masks are a mitigating factor.

So here we have a health department who's now saying, oh, you know, we'll let parents make that decision as to whether or not they want to implement a mitigating factor. In essence, removing that ability for schools to be able to help control for the spread of COVID-19. It just seems counter intuitive.

BLACKWELL: Superintendent Carvalho, the state is now coming forth, your budget for your money, and having been a local reporter for many years, I know that school district budgets are always too tight. What's the impact of their coming for the funds there in your district?

CARVALHO: Well, certainly there are two levels of impact. One is a symbolic impact, which is individual penalties assigned to duly elected constitutional officers who represent thousands of residents in our community. And the symbolism of that level of interference cannot be ignored.

Secondly is obviously the financial impact. And we're talking for Miami-Dade should these sanctions be applied for an entire year? We're talking about close to a million dollars, which unfortunately comes with another imposition, which would prevent the federal government from intervening with financial relief for impacted districts.

BLACKWELL: Superintendent Cartwright, what is the threshold for lifting mask mandates there in Broward County?

CARTWRIGHT: At this point in time, we're taking a look at a thresholds that has actually been established by the county here in Broward. And we're getting closer to that threshold, but we're just not there just yet. So, I believe it's right around the 67 percent that we've met, as far as the vaccination is concerned. But also, the amount of spread we're looking for, I believe, is closer to more like 5 percent as far as our spread is concerned.

BLACKWELL: One other thing for you, Superintendent Carvalho, starting Monday, I believe it is, students in your district who come in contact with someone who's tested positive for COVID and they're asymptomatic, they only have to quarantine for five days. It has been ten days now. The state wants, you know, the kids to come back if their parents say they can on the very next day. Why the change there in Miami-Dade?

CARVALHO: Well, we continue to consult with the medical experts and public health officials. And these are not my recommendations, they're not our school board decisions. They are recommendations approved and advocated by the best of the best as far as medical advice and public health advice.

And we're looking at five specific criteria. Number one, the number of hospitalizations in our county, specific to COVID-19, the percentage of beds in hospitals that are being utilized by COVID-19 patients, the positive positivity rate in our community and then the most critical of all factors, which is number of infected individuals per 100,000 residents.

And what I can tell you is out of the five criteria, we're currently meeting four of them, which means within a couple of weeks, we probably will meet all of the criteria. That's why we adjusted downward, the requirements for quarantine.

And Victor, I have to tell you that this latest decision by the state is quite frankly a solution looking for a problem because the solution is around the corner, if we follow science, reason, and the advice of health officials.

BLACKWELL: All right, superintendents Alberto Carvalho, and Vickie Cartwright, thank you.

CARVALHO: Thank you.

CARTWRIGHT: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Anti-Asian hate crimes have risen sharply during the pandemic, and unfortunately this is not new in America. It's the focus of this week's episode of "THIS IS LIFE" with Lisa Ling. She joins me next.



BLACKWELL: This Sunday is the season premiere of "THIS IS LIFE" with Lisa Ling. And this season Lisa takes a deep dive into some of the most challenging issues that have really defined the tumultuous past year. The first episode looks at the recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes around the country and how it's rooted in a long history of discrimination against Asian-Americans.

Here's a look.


LISA LING, CNN HOST (voice over): In 1882, the U.S. government responded to those fears with racist legislation, the Chinese Exclusion Act. And for the first time in American history, the doors closed on a population because of where they were from.

Chinese immigrants who were already in the U.S. became the target of vicious attacks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People show up on the Chinese settlement en masse, with pitch forks and guns. They force people out into the dead of night. And literally thousands of folks are massacred because of this violence.

LING: Why don't we ever hear about this in American history books?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not something that is part of this created mythology of selling the frontier. It's not something that makes us look good. But we've created this powerful prosperous country on the backs of a lot of people.


BLACKWELL: And Lisa Ling, the host of "THIS IS LIFE" is with me now in studio.

LING: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Good to see you.

LING: Sorry if I'm a little -- this is the closest I have been to someone so --

BLACKWELL: It's all new. I get it. No offense taken. So, let's start here with delving into history this season, something new for the series.

LING: We are doing something different. Because of COVID we had to pivot. Our show is usually very experiential, very immersive but we couldn't do that last year.

So, we decided to explore moments in American history that didn't make it into our history books that still impact us today.

BLACKWELL: Yes, you're focusing in this first episode on the anti- Asian violence that we've seen, but specifically the story of a man named Vincent Chen --

LING: Yes.

BLACKWELL: -- who was murdered in Detroit in the '80s and talk about the relevance of his story to what we're seeing today.

LING: Well, we know that Detroit was the automobile capital of the world for decades, but in the early '80s, there was an economic downturn there, rising oil prices resulted in so many auto workers getting laid off, and Japan was producing some fuel-efficient cars. So, a lot of hatred was directed and blamed to Japanese automobile manufacturers. And at that time, anyone who looked like they could be Japanese was targeted for assault.

And so, Vincent Chin, who was a Chinese-American man was out at a bar celebrating his bachelor party and two out of work auto workers got into an altercation with him. When Vincent Chin left, they followed him and they beat him to death with a baseball bat. And those two men never served a single day in jail or prison. They were fined about $3,000 and served several months on probation.

BLACKWELL: Yes, so many of these stories, that I mean I have never heard that story. So many people I'm sure who are watching have never heard that. And you're focusing on those stories that don't make the history books but are so important for us to know.

LING: That's right. I mean, Asian-American history wasn't mentioned in my history books at all. And when that happens, when you don't have a frame of reference for someone's inclusion, it becomes so easy to overlook or discriminate against an entire population.

And when you look at what's been happening in the last year and a half, as soon as COVID got rooted, Asians were once again scapegoated and blamed for bringing this virus to America and to the rest of the world. And in some ways, it's no different from what happened during the '80s, and there's been this long history of scapegoating Asians that even goes back more than a century, and we explore that too in the episode, as you saw in the clip.

BLACKWELL: All right, Looking forward to that first episode. What else do you for us have this season?

LING: So, the following week we have an episode about the roots of conspiracy theories, which are a hot topic right now. We explore a riot in Chicago that happened over a century ago. But in some ways explains the violence that we are experiencing and seeing happen in Chicago today.

BLACKWELL: Looking forward to it. Lisa Ling --

LING: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: -- good to see you in person.

LING: Thanks for having me.

BLACKWELL: All right, catch the season premiere of "THIS IS LIFE" with Lisa Ling. This Sunday at 10 p.m. right here on CNN.

A key Trump ally defies a subpoena from the January 6th House Select Committee but the committee is not backing down threatening criminal contempt. We'll have more on that ahead.



BLACKWELL: This week CNN Hero is a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing. Heather Abbott's life was forever changed by the injuries she suffered. But Monday she will be back by the finish line of the Boston Marathon cheering on runners.


HEATHER ABBOTT, SURVIVOR OF THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING: I heard the first explosion just ahead in front of me. The next thing I knew a second explosion occurred just to my right and that was last thing I knew before I ran into the restaurant on the ground.

I was in the hospital for several days while doctors were deciding whether or not to amputate. It was hard to come to terms with the fact that I am an amputee. At first, and had my injury not happened in such a public way, where there was so much assistance available, I never would have been able to afford multiple prosthesis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some of our recent beneficiaries.

ABBOTT: So, I decided to do what I could to help people get those devices that simply couldn't get them because they were out of reach.


It has been life-changing for them. And a lot of them remind me of that. It feels very rewarding to be able to do that.


BLACKWELL: It's fantastic. To see Heather's full story, go to

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts after a quick break.