DeSantis puts far-left Broward on notice, paychecks may be withheld for ignoring school mask ban

Broward County Public Schools interim superintendent and members of the school board were put on notice Tuesday by the Florida Department of Education that their salaries could be withheld after a vote to defy Gov. Ron DeSantis’s executive order barring mask mandates in schools.

Intent on “protecting parents’ rights and ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality education that meets their unique needs,” as his office characterized his action, DeSantis issued an executive order last week banning school mask mandates.

A number of rogue districts, primarily in Democrat-run areas, are bucking the order and making masks mandatory anyway — never mind that the science is murky behind the overall effectiveness of masks, which for many is simply a piece of cloth over their mouth.

“This letter is sent to express my grave concern regarding your district’s significant neglect in response to the recently adopted Emergency Rule,” DOE Commissioner Richard Corcoran said in a letter to the superintendent and chair of the school board, according to Fox News. The order lays out clear “expectations for ensuring that any mandated mask policies imposed by a district or school ‘must allow for a parent or legal guardian of the student to opt-out the student from wearing a face covering or mask.’”

“The action taken today at the Broward County School Board meeting makes it clear that you have no current intentions of complying with this order,” 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 health and educational choices for their children.”

Corcoran announced he would initiate an investigation, “demanding that you provide a written response by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, August 13.”

“I may recommend to the State Board of Education that the Department withhold funds in an amount equal to the salaries for the Superintendent and all the members of the School Board,” he added.

Two lawsuits, one based in Broward County, have been filed against DeSantis over his executive order on masks in schools.

“The fact of the matter is that parents are in the best position to know what’s best for their kids,” DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday. “Our policy, based on the parents’ bill of rights, is this is the parents’ decision under Florida law at this point.”

DeSantis’s spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, said in a statement Monday the salaries of superintendents and school board members could be withheld for “noncompliance” with the order.

“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,” the statement said. “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.”

Rosalind Osgood, the Broward County school board chair, declared that children not wearing masks meant greater mutation of COVID-19 — without qualifying the claim.

“You can’t ignore this pandemic. It’s deadly, and it’s getting worse instead of better and the more we don’t use masks, the more we position the mutation of this virus to grow,” Osgood said at Tuesday’s special board meeting, according to WTVA.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that children are less likely to contract COVID-19, experience severe symptoms, or die from the disease, yet still recommends face masks indoors, physical distancing, and screening testing for schools, Fox News reported.

Osgood said they “refuse to be bullied into a perspective of parochial self-interest, where we are forced to place monetary value on people’s lives.”

“We have concluded that people’s lives are invaluable,” she added. “It is too big a chance to take when you do the cost-benefit analysis. It’s not ever OK to risk your child’s life.”

Tom Tillison

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