Florida moves ahead to withhold salaries of school board members imposing mask mandates

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), backed by the state legislature, barred school districts from imposing mask mandates on students and went so far as to threaten to withhold the salaries of school board members who nevertheless imposed such prohibited requirements.

Now, DeSantis is making good on that threat in two counties that imposed mask mandates, despite a state judge declaring Friday that the state’s ban on mask mandates was probably unconstitutional, Mediaite reported.

Salaries withheld, as promised

The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) has reportedly moved ahead with plans to withhold the salaries of certain school board members in Alachua and Broward Counties — two of the first of at least 10 school districts across the state that have defied the governor and legislature and implemented mask mandates.

Politico reported that Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said in a statement, “We’re going to fight to protect parents’ rights to make health care decisions for their children,” and added, “What’s unacceptable is the politicians who have raised their right hands and pledged, under oath, to uphold the Constitution but are not doing so.”

The withheld salaries from the school board members is reportedly around $3,900 per month, and President Joe Biden’s administration — already gearing up for a potential 2024 fight against DeSantis — has stated its intention to intervene in the situation and cover those withheld salaries via U.S. taxpayer funds for the school board members defying the Republican governor.

Likely unconstitutional

As for the supposed court order that Gov. DeSantis reportedly defied, it actually hasn’t even been issued yet, according to a report from NBC News. What did happen was Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper declared from the bench his belief that the DeSantis administration did “not pass constitutional muster” in banning school districts from imposing mask mandates.

However, the judge hadn’t actually issued a written ruling by Monday, and the state had already announced its intention to appeal the likely decision, given the fact that the governor’s administration is supported by legislation passed into law earlier this year known as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” that, among other things, granted parents a say in whether or not their child would be subjected to mandatory masking in school.

Just one month ago, in reference to the bill he signed into law a month earlier, DeSantis said, “The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day.”

“Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children,” he added at that time.

The fight is on

As for the judge’s ruling Friday, described as “immensely disappointing” by a spokesman for the FDOE, Jared Ochs, NBC noted that Ochs said, “This decision conflicts with basic and established rights of parents to make private health care and education decisions for children.”

A spokesperson for the governor’s office, Taryn Fenske, said the “ruling was made with incoherent justifications, not based in science and facts — frankly not even remotely focused on the merits of the case presented.”

“It’s not surprising that Judge Cooper would rule against parent’s rights and their ability to make the best educational and medical decisions for their family, but instead rule in favor of elected politicians,” Fenske added. “We will continue to defend the law and parent’s rights in Florida, and will immediately appeal the ruling to the First District Court of Appeals, where we are confident we will prevail on the merits of the case.”

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