Spencer Roach says Lee County school leader should drop mask mandate or get fired
Spencer Roach. Photo by Jacob Ogles.

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If enforcement doesn't stop by Sept. 13, Roach wants Ron DeSantis to remove Ken Savage.

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 (JohnCooper 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.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


5 comments

  • PeterH

    September 10, 2021 at 5:35 pm

    More ‘stupid’ from Republican Bobby Jindal’s “party of stupid”…..

    An unending parade of Republican stupids!

    Reply

  • Harold Finch

    September 12, 2021 at 10:10 am

    Roach is an idiot, and the majority of his and my fellow republicans in the legislature are just a bunch of sheep following DuhSantis!!!
    Totally ridiculous!!!

    Reply

  • Phil Morton

    September 13, 2021 at 6:44 am

    Spencer Roach has no interest in protecting our kids. He can be fired on November 8th 2022 and that would be a very good thing.

    Reply

  • Lida Pittenger

    September 14, 2021 at 10:57 am

    Good. Thank You Mr Roach. Desantis should remove the funds for all those Districts that do not obey, period

    Reply

    • PeterH

      September 14, 2021 at 11:06 am

      DeSantis has zero authority to fine or remove funds.

      The State must first go to court and trust me ….. DeSantis will be long gone before the court case is resolved!

      Reply

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