Florida Board of Education recommends punishment to come for Broward, Alachua school systems

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 10:40 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - For the first time, Florida’s Board of Education has decided two Florida school districts are violating the state’s executive order banning mask mandates.

The votes came following a nearly three-hour emergency conference call Tuesday afternoon.

Both Alachua and Broward County Schools were at the center of the controversy.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran led the way during the meeting, arguing the mandates themselves create an immediate public danger to students. And, while the vote was unanimous, what happens next remains unclear.

“We know parents know their kids better than anyone else, that’s why we have the parental Bill of Rights that says they have the right to direct the education and health of their children,” Corcoran said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Corcoran led the charge against the only two districts mandating masks without a parental opt-out.

“We have districts who are picking and choosing what laws to follow, that is in violation of the rule of law,” he continued.

For nearly an hour, board members grilled Alachua County Superintendent Carlee Simon who argued parents could use the Hope Scholarship and move districts, therefore leaving her mandate in compliance with the state.

“This is the safest way to keep our schools open, our students in place, and keep from having as many quarantines,” Simon explained.

After public comment was split on the move, board Chair Tom Grady then recommended punishment through further investigation, but offered “mays” instead of “wills.”

“It may involve withholding salaries, it may involve removing officers, it may involve reviewing district conduct, it may involve public records requests,” Grady said.

It was then Broward County’s turn: A similar process that reached the same result.

The Board of Education appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis and the moves made Tuesday frustrated Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried, the state’s current Agriculture Commissioner.

“Maybe they should try focusing on their own jobs instead of preventing teachers and school board members from doing theirs,” she said in a press conference Tuesday.

Fried says she’s still in contact with the White House for any possible aid should the state start docking pay.

As for what’s next, an Alachua County Schools spokesperson has said before the meeting they’d seek legal action against the state should the district be found in violation.

In Leon County, there’s a hearing in district court Thursday on a lawsuit filed by parents against the state’s executive order.

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