The showdown between Gov. Ron DeSantis and school boards defying his order by requiring all students mask up to shows no sign of letting up.
The Alachua County school superintendent sent a one-page letter reiterating the district’s belief that universal masking is the best way to keep students healthy in a pandemic. And Broward County schools Tuesday sent a 20-page document saying the district is complying with the Governor’s order — the legal parts of it, anyway.
Both districts received orders from Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran last week that the districts’ state aid will be reduced in the amount equal to school board members’ salaries. The order would be lifted if the boards backtrack on approved policies that do not let parents decide whether students come to school with their faces covered.
No dice, both school districts are saying.
“We do believe that it is an overreach of their authority, that we are legally compliant,” Broward County Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said Tuesday. “And we have respectfully requested they rescind the order that has been placed upon the Broward County Schools.”
Alachua County Superintendent Carlee Simon asserts that universal masking was the best way to keep children in the classroom and out of the hospital.
“The parents of Alachua County have placed their trust in us to care for their children,” she wrote in the district’s response.
Broward’s response cites passages in the state Constitution that detail “home rule” authority for school boards that appear to allow mandatory face masks. The Constitution, the response says, gives school boards, “the authority to adopt policies that impose dress-related requirements ‘if the school board finds that those requirements are necessary for the safety and welfare of the student body or school personnel.’”
School Board Chairwoman Rosalind Osgood said that the School Board has directed the district’s legal team to find an avenue to make the district’s case.
More districts are in line to receive the same treatment from the state Education Department: Duval, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Sarasota counties have all passed policies that require students to come to school with their faces covered unless they have a doctor’s note. Officials in Hillsborough and Miami-Dade schools said the districts have not yet heard from the Education Department about last week’s votes.
An Education Department spokesman said he would provide updates as they come and none were available Tuesday.