Florida withholds school board salaries from 2 districts with mask mandates

Funding withheld Alachua, Broward school boards

FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, file photo, student Winston Wallace, 9, raises his hand in class at iPrep Academy on the first day of school in Miami. A judge has ruled that Florida school districts may impose mask mandates. Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper on Friday agreed with a group of parents who claimed in a lawsuit that Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on the mandates is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Lynne Sladky, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Despite a judge’s decision Friday siding with Florida families who sued the state over the mask mandate ban in schools the Florida Department of Education has made good on its threat to withhold funding from school districts with mask requirements.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on July 30 issued an executive order aimed at preventing districts from requiring students to wear masks. The Florida Department of Health followed by issuing a rule that requires parents to be able to opt-out of student mask requirements.

Amid rising COVID-19 cases in Florida among children unable to get vaccinated, some school districts passed mask mandates but students could opt-out with a note from a parent.

However, some of the state’s largest, including Alachua and Broward counties implemented mandates that required a medical professional to provide a reason to opt out. The State Board of Education found probable cause that those districts were in violation of the state’s Parents Bill of Rights.

On Monday, the state withheld the monthly school board salaries from Alachua and Broward counties. The education department said in a news release it would withhold money until each school board complies with state law and rule.

“We’re going to fight to protect parent’s rights to make health care decisions for their children,” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said in a statement. “They know what is best for their children. What’s unacceptable is the politicians who have raised their right hands and pledged, under oath, to uphold the Constitution but are not doing so. Simply said, elected officials cannot pick and choose what laws they want to follow,”

Last week, Corcoran gave the districts 48 hours to reconsider the mandates. DeSantis previously said they would face consequences.

On Friday, Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper agreed with a group of parents who claimed in a lawsuit that DeSantis’ order is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. Cooper has yet to sign the ruling.

Cooper said DeSantis’ order “is without legal authority.”

The governor’s office said the state will appeal Cooper’s decision.

On Monday, DeSantis doubled down saying he believes he will ultimately win the legal battle in appeal.

“What if a district banned anyone from wearing masks. I’ll bet you have parents sue under the Parents Bill of Rights, say, ‘Hey, wait a minute I think this is in the best interest of my child to go to school,’ to where you know what? I think that they would win on that and so it’ll be appealed. We’ll end up getting it back,” the governor said.

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