- Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to withhold 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, defying DeSantis.
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Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is threatening to withhold salaries from school-board members who dare to defy his mask ban.
The governor’s threat follows an executive order he signed July 31 saying mask mandates were prohibited in Florida schools. The executive order went into effect immediately and said schools risked losing funding if they imposed face-covering requirements.
Now DeSantis is taking it a step further.
On Monday, he released a statement to CBS Miami saying school-board members and superintendents who defied his executive order would 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 said.
The statement added that the governor’s priorities were “protecting parents’ rights and ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality education that meets their unique needs.”
Miami-Dade County 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 – would follow a “process” in consultation with public-health experts to decide whether 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 told CBS Miami.
Carvalho also tweeted about the issue Monday night, saying: “Threat-laced humiliation has not served and will not serve humanity well.”
This is the latest salvo in DeSantis’ attack against mask requirements for children in schools. In a tweet July 29, the governor called “forcing kids to wear masks” a “bad policy” and said the decision on whether to have children wear masks should be left to parents.
DeSantis is in direct opposition to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends that students and staff members at K-12 schools wear masks in the classroom regardless of their vaccination status.
Some school districts – like one in Florida’s Orange County – have chosen to defy DeSantis’ prohibition on mask mandates, asking students to wear face coverings for 30 days starting Tuesday. 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.
DeSantis’ battle with mask mandates coincides with a troubling surge in COVID-19 cases in Florida.
Florida has seen an uptick in infection rates, reporting a daily average of 19,250 cases as of Sunday and an 84% increase in COVID-19 infections over the past 14 days, per The New York Times’ tracker. Hospitals in Florida are also seeing an increase in the number of children being infected with the virus, per NPR.
Children under 12 in the US are still unable to get vaccinated, but the Food and Drug Administration expects authorization for a vaccine for this age group to come later this year, per NBC.