Florida orders school boards to relax mask rules or risk pay

Florida orders school boards to relax mask rules or risk pay



MIAMI (AP) — Florida officials are threatening to withhold funds equal to the salaries of school board members if school districts in two counties don't immediately do away with strict mask mandates as the state continues to battle through high hospitalization rates.

School boards in Broward and Alachua counties received a warning Friday from the State Board of Education giving them 48 hours to walk back their decisions to require masks for all students, only exempting kids that have a doctor's note.

"We cannot have government officials pick and choose what laws they want to follow,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran in an emailed statement. “These are the initial consequences to their intentional refusal to follow state law and state rule to purposefully and willingly violate the rights of parents. This is simply unacceptable behavior.”

Corcoran says the districts in those two areas are violating the Parents' Bill of Rights and a late July executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis that prompted rules limiting how far districts can go with mask requirements and other COVID-19 measures.

The Republican governor has pushed for school districts not to mandate masks for all students, ordering the state's health and education departments to come up with rules so that parents can choose whether their children wear them. Corcoran was recommended to the post by DeSantis and appointed by the State Board of Education in 2019.

DeSantis maintains that masks can be detrimental for children's development and that younger children simply don't wear masks properly. But board members in the counties of Broward, home to Fort Lauderdale, and Alachua, home to Gainesville, decided not to allow parents to easily opt out of the mandate as coronavirus cases began straining hospitals...

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