Rep. Spencer Roach said Lee County’s Superintendent of Schools needs to stop enforcing a no-options mask mandate. Otherwise, the lawmaker will ask Gov. Ron DeSantis to fire the school leader.
The North Fort Myers Republican issued a letter to acting Lee County Schools Superintendent Ken Savage after the 1st District Court of Appeal put back in place an executive order from the Governor prohibiting mask mandates with no parent opt-out. The appellate court ordered a stay of a circuit court decision blocking DeSantis’ directive, which was issued after the parents of special needs students sued the Governor.
Lee County is one of 13 public school districts with a mask mandate that defies DeSantis’ order.
“In light of the stay granted this afternoon by the First District Court of Appeals restoring the right of parents to make health care decisions on behalf of their children, I demand that you immediately comply,” Roach wrote in his letter to Savage.
Roach said Savage illegally imposed the rule on Aug. 30.
The Florida Department of Education has already begun investigating counties that violated the order. In a response to the state, school officials note the Lee County rule went into effect only after the circuit court ruled such restrictions don’t break the law.
“In that decision, the court found that Executive Order 21-175 was null, void, unconstitutional and unenforceable,” reads a letter signed by Savage and Lee County School Board Chair Debbie Jordan. “Judge (John) Cooper also ruled that per the Parents’ Bill of Rights statute, school districts could enact policies regarding health care and education that are necessary and reasonable to achieve a compelling state interest so long as it is narrowly tailored.”
District officials go on to cite high positivity numbers for COVID-19 testing in the region.
Roach and other critics of such mandates say the Parents’ Bill of Rights makes clear health decisions involving students must be left to parents or guardians. Now, he said there must be consequences for school officials who ignore that.
“Failure to rescind this illegal order by close of business on Monday, September 13th, will result in my formal request to Governor DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to terminate your employment with the Lee County School District, effective immediately,” Roach wrote to Savage. “Parents — not the government — have the sole authority to make health care decisions for their children, and I will use all the powers of my office to defend their right to do so.”
DeSantis has removed an elected superintendent from office before; he suspended Okaloosa County School Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson after a grand jury reported negligence under her watch. But he notably held back from suspending former Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie over concerns he lacked the authority to remove a hired superintendent.
Roach, for his part, believes DeSantis can remove Savage because “he is breaking the law.”
“But the ambiguity here is a testament to why we need an elected super versus an appointed one,” Roach said, noting the Lee County Legislative Delegation recently voted to put such a change to the system before voters.