Noticing Bauman was recording her, the student reached for his phone. Bauman swiftly grabbed her hand, twisted it and pushed her against the gate, police said. Officers pulled him off the student.
Fort Lauderdale police immediately arrested Bauman, who has repeatedly had law enforcement called on him for alleged mask violations, and charged him with child abuse without great bodily harm, according to the arrest report.
Bauman, 50, was taken to Broward County Jail. Bond has not been set. A lawyer was not listed in jail records, and it is unclear when he is due in court.
The incident is the latest confrontation over school mask mandates as students return to the classroom. Last week, a parent in an Austin school district ripped a mask off a teacher’s face. A week earlier, a parent in California allegedly yelled at a school principal over mask requirements and then struck a teacher.
Tensions are particularly high in Florida, where more than half the state’s students are enrolled in school districts that have defied Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban on mask requirements, despite threats of funding cuts. Coronavirus cases continue to surge in Florida as the highly contagious delta variant rapidly spreads. The positivity rate among reported tests is nearly 20 percent, according to The Washington Post’s coronavirus tracker. In the past week, new daily reported deaths rose over 612 percent.
Broward County Public Schools, the home of Fort Lauderdale High School and the sixth largest school district in the country, was one of the first counties to defy DeSantis’s order. On Friday, Florida’s education commissioner warned that the school board could lose state funding if it did not reverse its mask requirements.
Bauman has consistently opposed the school’s mask rules, calling them illegal.
“It’s against the law, it’s against the Parents’ Bill of Rights,” he told WFOR off school grounds Wednesday before his arrest, with his daughter and protesters by his side. “Our belief is it doesn’t stop the spread of the virus. It doesn’t control it, it does more harm than good.”
Only one student out of more than 2,200 at Fort Lauderdale High School has tested positive for covid since the first day of school on Aug. 18, according to the county’s coronavirus dashboard. Districtwide, 84 students out of over 260,000 have tested positive for the virus this school year.
Bauman’s daughter, a sophomore who is attending the high school for the first time this year according to WFOR, said she thinks masks should be optional.
“I want to be able to go to school like everyone does, but I can’t wear a mask. I can’t breathe in it, and I want to have that choice,” she said.
Bauman and his daughter approached the school’s gate at about 7:25 a.m. on Wednesday, police said in a statement to The Post. The school resource officer wrote in his report that he turned on his body camera as he saw Bauman approaching because he is “known to cause disruption due to protesting the school board’s mask policy.” (Police have not released the footage, citing an open and active investigation.)
Bauman held up his phone to record the interaction with the officer, police said.
After the student reached for his phone, “[Bauman] then pushed the child by the shoulder and grabbed her hand and twisted her arm in an aggressive manner,” the school resource officer wrote in the arrest report, “which caused me and the security [guard] to pull [Bauman] off the child.”
Sean Curran, a school administrator, told WFOR that the students have been “incredible” about wearing masks.
“Every single one of them is wearing it and are supportive of what the measures are to keep everyone safe,” he said.
Broward County Public Schools said in a statement that the mask policy is in place to ensure “students have a safe and healthy learning environment, especially now that they are back in the classrooms.” The district would not comment further on Wednesday’s incident.
Fort Lauderdale police have issued Bauman at least five trespassing warnings in the past year and a half over mask violations, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.
Last August, police arrived at a Home Depot after he allegedly wore pink thong underwear as a mask and refused to put on a face covering even after security offered him one. Two months later, a Publix grocery store warned him that he was trespassing after he allegedly tried to enter maskless, according to the Sun-Sentinel. He then allegedly accused a store employee of grabbing him, despite security footage showing there was no physical contact.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, he allegedly repeated similar antics at a UPS store and at a post office, where he tried to enter with underwear in place of a mask or with no mask at all. When two young women asked Bauman to wear a mask inside a pharmacy last December, he allegedly punched one of the women and called the other an offensive slur, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The women allegedly hit back and hurled a chair at him.
Court records do not indicate that he was criminally charged in those cases.