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DeSantis Suggests Freezing Pay Of School Officials Who Mandate Masks For Students

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MIAMI, FLORIDA - JULY 13: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis takes part in a roundtable discussion about the uprising in Cuba at the American Museum of the Cuba Diaspora on July 13, 2021 in Miami, Florida. Thousands of people took to the streets in Cuba on Sunday to protest against the government. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ office suggested withholding the paychecks of school administrators that force students to wear masks Monday.

The Republican governor’s office said that the State Board of Education had the authority to withhold the paychecks of any school administrators that choose to buck DeSantis’ order against school mask mandates. Doing so could avoid harsher financial penalties for those schools, such as stripping entire districts of state funding.

“With respect to enforcing any financial consequences for noncompliance of state law regarding these rules and ultimately the rights of parents to make decisions about their children’s education and health care decisions, it would be the goal of the State Board of Education to narrowly tailor any financial consequences to the offense committed,” the governor’s office told CBSMiami. “For example, the State Board of Education could move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members, as a narrowly tailored means to address the decision-makers who led to the violation of law.”

“Education funding is intended to benefit students first and foremost, not systems,” the statement continued. “The Governor’s priorities are protecting parents’ rights and ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality education that meets their unique needs.”

On July 30, DeSantis signed an order banning school districts from reviving some COVID-19 pandemic restrictions for the upcoming school year, such as mandating that students wear masks in classrooms.

“Today, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 21-175, in response to several Florida school boards considering or implementing mask mandates in their schools after the Biden Administration issued unscientific and inconsistent recommendations that school-aged children wear masks,” the governor’s office said at the time. “The Florida Department of Health will enter rulemaking in collaboration with the Florida Department of Education to protect parents’ freedom to choose whether their children wear masks.”

The order caused at least one school district to change course and cut policies mandating students wear masks on their return to school. Broward County Public Schools announced last week that the school district would scrap its health mandate in light of the governor’s order. The school said in a statement:

Broward County Public Schools intends to comply with the Governor’s latest Executive Order.

Last week, the School Board of Broward County mandated the wearing of masks in our schools to protect our students, staff and community.

Safety remains our highest priority. The District will advocate for all eligible students and staff to receive vaccines and strongly encourage masks to be worn by everyone in schools. The District will also work to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, including frequent cleaning and disinfecting of our schools, physical distancing, hand washing, and staying home when sick. The District is continuing to collaborate with our local health organizations to monitor trends in the spread of COVID-19 and variants.

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