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Escalating Legal Battle for School Boards and Masks Mandates in Florida
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There could be more legal battles in the school mask mandate controversy, according to school officials, with Broward and Alachua discussing their legal options after the Florida Department of Education docked pay for the two local boards because they had implemented strict mask mandates.

DeSantis administration officials and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran – who believe parents, not school boards, should determine whether children wear masks – took the step after a judge ruled verbally that local boards were indeed allowed to implement mask mandates.

State officials’ actions had upset superintendent Carlee Simon, who wrote in a statement that she was very troubled by them. The school board members made a courageous decision to protect the health and safety of students, staff, and the people of this community, and a court has already ruled they were legally entitled to do so. Instead of penalizing them, they should be praised, she stated.

  
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Alachua school district is looking into legal action, she noted.

“We believe this is a necessary step to ensure that Florida’s districts have the right to act in the best interests of those they serve.”

Further details on the legal front were not provided in the statement.

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A representative of Alachua County Communications Jackie Johnson said she is meeting with representatives from Broward and Orange Counties regarding the issue and waiting for further orders from Circuit Court Judge John Cooper.

“We’ll have more information on the specific arguments when there is a formal ruling, which should be in the next couple of days,” Johnson told the Phoenix.



Broward County School District also released a written statement stating that its mask policies are in accordance with state law.

“We continue to receive legal advisement that we are in compliance to the rules as well as to the order,” interim Supt. Vickie Cartwright said during a special school board meeting. The comments were from a video from the board meeting.

In response to rising COVID-19 cases in Florida, Alachua and Broward were the first two districts to implement mask mandate policies. In addition to those school districts, ten others have instituted mask requirements. It is not clear if these districts will also face punitive measures.

Apart from Alachua and Broward, other school districts defying the DeSantis administration’s mask policies include Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Sarasota, Leon, Duval, Indian River, Orange, Brevard, and Lee.

Several district superintendents have received letters informing them of possible punitive actions, including docking local board member’s pay.

In response to the Department “illegally” withholding the salaries of school board members, the Florida Democratic Party issued a press release.

In a statement, Manny Diaz said that the announcement was shocking and outrageous. According to a Leon County Judge, the governor exceeded his authority when he enacted the executive order blocking local school boards from enforcing mask protocols.

“Yet, Commissioner Corcoran has moved forward with these heavy-handed tactics to further the Governor’s unconstitutional effort to prevent school boards from enacting health protocols necessary to protect students and employees.”



 

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