On Tuesday, representatives of the Florida State Board of Education held an emergency meeting, with the subject of the hour once again being the use of face masks in public schools. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has repeatedly defended his ongoing ban of all face mask mandates in public schools, in spite of rising COVID-19 infection reports in the state, and even within the schools themselves.
In the interest of student and staff safety, several school districts, including Alachua and Broward counties, have imposed mask mandates in defiance of DeSantis’ order. As punishment for defying the Governor’s order, the Board of Education has authorized the state education commissioner, Richard Corcoran, “to take all legal steps” to penalize both counties. The exact nature of the punishments has not been decided upon, but the board members floated several suggestions, including withholding funding and staff salaries, removing security officers, and conducting sweeping audits of the schools’ internal policies.
ICYMI: The State Board of Education didn’t sanction 2 Florida school districts who defied state masking orders but floated the idea that upon further investigation board members and superintendents could be removed from office or have salaries withheld. https://t.co/br2KSaLiNl
— Miami Herald (@MiamiHerald) August 18, 2021
According to Corcoran, these punishments are being considered in order to “protect parents’ freedom to choose whether their children wear masks.”
Other Florida school districts have managed to skirt DeSantis’ ban by enacting mask mandates, but allowing parents to submit a form stating that they want to opt out. Hillsborough County was using such a tactic, though they were recently forced to recommend students and staff quarantine at home after over 1,000 students and staff in Florida tested positive for COVID in recent weeks.