Florida could withhold superintendents’ salaries over mask mandates, governor’s office says

El gobernador de Florida, Ron DeSantis, llega a una conferencia de prensa el martes 3 de agosto de 2021, en Miami. (AP Foto/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – New details are coming to light about the governor’s plans to financially punish school districts that violate his order banning mask mandates in the classroom.

A violation of that rule could lead to the district’s superintendent or a school board member having their salary withheld by the State Board of Education, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

[TRENDING: Florida averages 19,200+ daily cases as state breaks pandemic records | Parents sue DeSantis over mask mandate ban]

The statement reads:

“With respect to enforcing any financial consequences for noncompliance of state law regarding these rules and ultimately the rights of parents to make decisions about their children’s education and health care decisions, it would be the goal of the State Board of Education to narrowly tailor any financial consequences to the offense committed. For example, the State Board of Education could move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members, as a narrowly tailored means to address the decision-makers who led to the violation of law.

Education funding is intended to benefit students first and foremost, not systems. The Governor’s priorities are protecting parents’ rights and ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality education that meets their unique needs.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis had ordered the state education department to come up with ways to pressure school districts against creating mask mandates and punish them if they do. He said the rules could include withholding money from school districts or other actions allowed under Florida law.

At the time, it was not clear what funds would be withheld or how that would be implemented.

The governor had an afternoon call Monday with all Florida school district superintendents. News 6 reached out to Central Florida’s school districts to ask about any threats to funding.

“SCPS has adhered to the State’s directive of providing an opt-out option for families wishing their student to not wear a mask/facial covering,” a spokesman for Seminole County School District said.

Osceola County is also in compliance, according to the school district.

The move comes as several Florida school districts, including Orange and Seminole counties, have ordered students to wear masks, at least temporarily. Orange and Seminole counties are allowing parents to opt their students out of the masking order with a note.

A group of parents who have children with disabilities is suing the state. They argue the governor’s ban on mask mandates in schools violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The federal lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Florida includes 27 parents and children who claim DeSantis “does not have the authority to threaten school districts with loss of funding if they protect their students with disabilities health and rights to be in an integrated learning environment.”

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About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.