The Florida Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to withhold funds from eight school districts enforcing coronavirus mask mandates that do not allow parents to have the ability to opt-out their children from the rules.
In doing so, the state board said that school districts in Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach counties were not in compliance and directly violating a Florida Department of Health emergency rule. As a penalty, Florida Board of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has requested that funds for each district be withheld “in an amount equal to 1/12 of all school board members’ salaries,” in addition to withholding any amount equal to federal grant funds awarded to those districts by President Joe Biden’s administration.
In response to the vote, Brevard County Schools Superintendent Mark Mullins said the mask mandates were needed to avoid what he described as possible “catastrophic outcomes for our schools and community.”
“We had over 3,200 positive cases, had to shut down one school and were on the brink of having shut down others,” Mullins added.
Florida’s Board of Education issued its own statement, accusing the school districts with mask mandates of “willingly and knowingly violated the rights of students and parents by denying them the option to make personal and private health care and educational decisions for their children.”
“Elected school board members should set a good example for our leaders of tomorrow. Instead, they are telling our younger generations that it is perfectly acceptable to pick and choose what laws they follow because they disagree with the underlying policy. That is simply unacceptable and antithetical to our Constitution,” said State Board of Education Chairman Tom Grady.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) approved that state schools are allowed to have a mask requirement, though students may opt out of the mandate “at the parent or legal guardian’s sole discretion.”