Florida school board member dares Gov. DeSantis to ‘bring it’ as board defies his ban on mask mandates

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference. Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • Officials on the Broward County School Board voted 8-1 Tuesday to keep its mask mandate in schools.
  • School board members spoke out against Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has banned mask mandates in schools.
  • He also threatened to withhold pay from school board members who impose mandates against his order.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Florida school board member told Gov. Ron DeSantis to “bring it” after he threatened to withhold the paychecks of school officials who set up mask mandates as the state deals with a record-breaking COVID-19 wave.

Eight of the nine members of the Broward County School Board voted to keep the school district’s mask mandate in place for students and staff despite Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ efforts to block schools from doing so. The board also decided to hire outside legal counsel to help challenge DeSantis’ executive orders, WSVN reported.

“Standing up for our students and our families is part of our job,” board member Nora Rupert said during the meeting Tuesday afternoon. “Being afraid that we’re going to lose our job – be removed from office, fined, lose our salary – bring it. Bring it. Because when you put that out there it makes me work harder for our school children and our families.”

DeSantis, a Republican, threatened this week to withhold pay from school officials that enact mask requirements.

His threat followed an executive order he signed at the end of July that prohibited mask mandates in Florida schools. At the time, DeSantis said schools risked losing state funds if they imposed mask requirements.

“The Broward mask policy appears to be similar to that of Leon and Alachua, which is to say it violates the spirit of the Governor’s executive order to protect parents’ rights to choose what is best for their own children,” a spokesperson for DeSantis told Insider.

DeSantis’ office on Tuesday pointed toward letters Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent Monday to school leaders in Leon and Alachua counties, threatening to withhold state funding equal to the salaries of the superintendents and school board members if they refused to comply with the state order.

All nine of the board members at the meeting spoke out against DeSantis’ actions, according to Local10 reporter Hatzel Vela. One board member said DeSantis’ actions were “dictatorial,” Vela reported.

Demonstrators both in favor and against masking requirements clashed outside the school board meeting Tuesday, according to WSVN.

“Wearing masks inside schools regardless of vaccine status is required to deal with the changing realities of virus transmission. It is a necessary precaution until children under 12 can receive a COVID-19 vaccination and more Americans 12 and older get vaccinated,” Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco said in a statement, according to Local10.

“We continue to be concerned about this variant, but our No. 1 priority remains a safe in-person school year in schools that can stay open,” she added.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics have advised everyone in K-12 schools to wear a mask indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.

Students who attend Broward County schools will return to class on August 18.