September 19, 2021

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Gov. Ron DeSantis threatens to withhold the paychecks of school board members who defy his mask ban – Business Insider

3 min read
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is threatening to withhold the salaries of school board members who impose mask mandates.
  • The governor on July 31 signed an executive order to strip funding from schools that mandate masks.
  • School districts in Florida, however, have recommended students wear masks, directly defying DeSantis.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is threatening to withhold school board members’ salaries who dare to defy his mask ban. 

The governor’s threat follows an executive order he signed on July 31, saying that mask mandates are prohibited in Florida schools. The executive order went into effect immediately and noted that schools run the risk of losing funding if they choose to impose face-covering requirements.

Now DeSantis is taking it a step further. 

On August 9, he released a statement to local CBS affiliate CBS Miami, saying that school board members and superintendents who defy his executive order will face “financial consequences.” 

“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,” the statement read. 

The statement added that 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.”

Miami-Dade public schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho responded to DeSantis in a separate statement to CBS Miami that the schools in his district — the fourth-largest in the US — will follow a “process” in consultation with public health experts to decide whether or not students should wear masks.

“At no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck, a small price to pay considering the gravity of this issue and the potential impact to the health and well-being of our students and dedicated employees,” Carvalho said to CBS Miami. 

Carvalho also tweeted on Monday night, saying: “Threat-laced humiliation has not served and will not serve humanity well.”

This is the latest salvo in DeSantis’ attack against requirements that children should wear masks in schools. In a tweet on July 29, the governor called “forcing kids to wear masks” a “bad policy” and said the decision on whether to have children wear masks or not should be left to parents. 

However, DeSantis is in direct opposition to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend that students and staff at K-12 schools wear masks in the classroom regardless of their vaccination status.

Some school districts — like one in Orange County, Florida — have chosen to defy DeSantis’ prohibition on mask mandates, asking students to wear face coverings for 30 days from August 10. According to The Hill, there have also been two legal challenges filed against DeSantis questioning the constitutionality of his executive order to prohibit true mask mandates in educational institutions. 

This ongoing battle between DeSantis and mask mandates coincides with a troubling surge in COVID cases in Florida.

Florida has seen an uptick in infection rates, with a daily average of 19,250 cases as of August 8, and an 84% increase in COVID-19 infections over the last 14 days, per The New York Times COVID case tracker. Hospitals in Florida are also seeing an increase in the number of children being infected with the virus, per NPR

Young children under 12 in the US are still unable to get vaccinated, but the FDA expects that authorization for a vaccine for this age group could come later this year, per NBC

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