The Broward School Board voted 8-1 on Tuesday to keep its student mask tenure in place – a day after the state’s education commissioner threatened to suspend pay for local superintendents and members of the council who refuse to make face coverings optional. By not giving parents the choice to refuse their children to wear masks, Broward is directly breaking emergency rules created by the DeSantis administration to prevent schools from adopting stricter Covid-19 safety measures.
The DeSantis administration has warned other school districts that break the new rules to make masks optional, or face possible “maximum” penalties from the Florida Department of Education.
“I am very disappointed and actually quite angry that the governor continues to use his dictatorial leadership style to override local school boards when they disagree with his views,” Patricia said Tuesday. Goode, Broward County School Board Member.
Parents, medical professionals and Democrats attacked DeSantis for weeks for its resistance to imposing Covid-related restrictions amid the surge in new infections. Yet the GOP governor, who is running for a second term in 2022, has sought to prevent the implementation of any lockdowns, mask requirements or vaccination passports, going so far as to threaten to suspend funding to school districts or mount legal challenges. This position made him a nationally revered figure among conservatives and helped fuel speculation that he would host a presidential race in 2024.
The state, however, continues to break Covid records. There are more than 15,000 hospitalizations related to the coronavirus, and the state counted more than 134,000 new infections last week.
Broward’s board of directors, representing the nation’s sixth-largest school district, enforced its mask policy as many districts in Florida welcomed students on their first day on Tuesday.
In most counties, masks are optional for students or they are allowed to refuse to wear face coverings with a simple parenting form. But principals in Alachua and Leon counties went further, demanding that students obtain permission from a medical professional before giving up masks – policies that have been disowned by the DeSantis administration, which argues that parents should have the final say on masking.
DeSantis, whose priority is to achieve a “normal” school year, said on Tuesday that his administration was not backing down from blocking local school mask mandates, a position that is also being challenged in court.
“We are going to do everything we can to defend the rights of parents,” DeSantis said at an event in Surfside.
The Broward school board grappled for hours with the possibility of losing state funding, namely the salaries of board members and the superintendent, before deciding to require masks when classes begin on the 18th. August. Initially, Broward County was one of the first districts to push for mandatory masks, a move that played a key role in pushing DeSantis to take action against face coverings.
School leaders in other districts, including Miami-Dade County, are considering similar measures at the risk of resisting DeSantis and its Commissioner of Education, who maintain a hard line against local policies on education. masks.
Board members and superintendents say defying DeSantis is worth the risk if security measures help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in schools.
“I guess I’ll go back to my community and we’ll set up a GoFundMe, or someone will find me a job at McDonald’s somewhere,” said Rosalind Osgood, president of the Broward school board. “But I will be able to have a moral conscience and I know that I did not put anyone’s life in danger.”
Shortly after making his comments, Democrats in the state Senate announced they were launching a GoFundMe effort to reimburse the salaries of education officials who have lost income because of the mask rules.
Parents on both sides of the mask argument appeared at Broward’s board meeting in force, trying to influence the board to make face coverings optional and mandatory.
Some told the board they were prepared to take advantage of the state’s offer for a good ‘Covid-19 harassment’ that allows a student to attend private school or change county instead of opposing masks.
“Let’s take the money out of the county,” said parent Jenna Hague. “Because it seems like the only way to get anyone’s attention. “
Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Education has threatened to attack Alachua and Leon counties for imposing stricter health guidelines than those required by state agencies, a consequence expected to be touch Broward then.
In identical letters to school leaders, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran pledged to launch immediate investigations into their failure to comply with state emergency rules that ban mask warrants. Corcoran could recommend that the Board of Education withhold state funds equal to the salaries of the superintendent and all jury members, he wrote.
“There is no room for error or leniency when it comes to ensuring compliance with policies that allow parents and guardians to make choices about the health and education of their children. “Corcoran wrote.
DeSantis’ strong opposition to cover mask policies has come under increased criticism from President Joe Biden, Democrats and medical professionals.
On Thursday, the Biden administration continued to hunt down DeSantis mask warrants as White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated the federal government could intervene.
“We continue to look for ways for the US government to support districts and schools as they try to keep up with the science, do the right thing and save lives,” Psaki said at a briefing Tuesday.