- Alachua County
- Alachua County School District
- Board of Education
- Brevard County
- Brevard County School District
- Broward County
- Broward County School District
- Department of Education
- Department of Health
- Duval County
- Duval County School District
- Education Department
- Florida Department of Education
- Florida Department of Health
- Health Department
- Leon County
- Leon County School District
- miami dade county
- Miami-Dade County School District
- Orange County
- Orange County School District
- Palm Beach
- Palm Beach County
- Palm Beach County School District
- Project SAFE
- Richard Corcoran
- Ron DeSantis
- State Board of Education
The State Board of Education moved a step closer Thursday to sanctioning additional school boards for flouting state masking rules.
The Education Department’s Board of Education found that Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach county school boards are violating state school masking rules. The Education Department could sanction school districts that violate Health Department emergency rules, keeping school board members without pay if those districts don’t prove they moved to comply with state rules within 48 hours.
Under emergency rules outlined by Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, school districts must allow parents to opt out of any mask requirements imposed in the district.
Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said he determined that each of the districts aren’t complying with state law.
“Districts are required to follow these policies,” Corcoran told the Board of Education. “They can’t pick and choose which parts of the law they want to follow.”
After allowing school superintendents five minutes to defend their districts’ policies, the Board of Education unanimously declared each district to be violating the state rules. Superintendents argued their districts are complying with the rules because they are compelled to protect children and they allow avenues for parents to opt their children out of masking policies.
Hillsborough, Indian River and Sarasota county school districts were initially on the Board of Education’s meeting agenda for Thursday. However, the Board skipped those districts, which rescinded policies that flouted state rules.
Previously, the Board found that Alachua and Broward county school districts were violating masking rules ordered by the former Surgeon General, Scott Rivkees. The Education Department already withheld funds from those districts, starting a showdown with the federal government after it backfilled school board members’ pay. The Education Department doubled down this week, withholding funds equivalent to the federal grants they received.
Floridians should be offended, Corcoran said, that the Biden administration used federal tax dollars to “backfill or buy out” school districts, neutralizing state laws and enforcement.
“What we’re witnessing in these Project SAFE grants is one of the most egregious violations of the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Florida’s sovereignty in our lifetimes,” Corcoran said.
Florida’s masking policies have come at the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose executive order forbidding mask mandates faces multiple court challenges. The Republican Governor also pushed for the sanctions against school districts, which so far have amounted to $500,000 combined for Alachua and Broward counties.
Corcoran also addressed new policies from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland targeting threats to school board members, namely a rise in comments about masks and critical race theory. Both topics, the latter of which are teachings based on the premise that racism is embedded within American society and institutions, have been heated topics in recent months.
The Education Commissioner called harassment, assault and threats of violence inappropriate to civil discourse, but acknowledged the debate both topics have sparked in education.
“Federally sanctioned attempts to chill this discussion tread dangerously close to the constitutional right of free speech, if not trample upon it,” Corcoran said.
“We will not be strong-armed, nor will we allow others to be.”