NM School Board Votes 5-0 To Buck Governor’s Masking Mandate Despite Threats Of Removal
Michelle Lujan Grisham, governor of New Mexico, speaks during an interview at her office in Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. Lujan Grisham is balancing her concern over the catastrophic effects of climate change with the state's extraordinary dependence on oil and gas. Photographer: Steven St John/Bloomberg
Steven St John/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The school board of Floyd Municipal Schools in New Mexico voted unanimously Monday evening to reject Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s COVID-19 mandates for the next school year.

Grisham’s administration had previously threatened the Floyd school board that refusing to follow state requirements for schools would result in the termination of each board member. The Floyd board believes that the governor lacks the legal authority to make good on her threat.

“I believe this is a victory for the state of New Mexico,” board president Leon Nall said after the 5-0 vote, according to The Eastern New Mexico News.

Floyd, a rural town of approximately 100 people, educates roughly 225 students from kindergarten through high school each year in its school system each year. Approximately 100 people showed up to Monday’s school board meeting, and a dozen spoke urging the board to continue battling the governor’s masking requirements and other COVID-19 mandates for school students.

The school board also voted unanimously to place school Superintendent Damon Terry on paid administrative leave. While Nall declined to give an exact reason for the decision, the board president said that it was for Terry’s protection and not because of any disagreement with the administrator.

Prior to the meeting, the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) sent a letter to Floyd’s school board warning that unless the school enforces the state’s health mandates, the school board could be removed and the state could take over administration of the Floyd Municipal Schools. The letter said in part:

Dear Members of the Board of the Floyd Municipal School District:

It has come to the attention of the Public Education Department that on Monday, July 26, 2021, the Floyd School board held a special meeting and approved the actions listed below:

  1. Masks are optional
  2. Social Distancing is optional, a teacher’s choice
  3. No MERV 13 filtering
  4. Transportation will return to normal
  5. No temperature checks
  6. Surveillance testing is optional for staff, if a staff member wants to be tested, ok, not mandated.
  7. Athletic Teams follow the rules of the teams they visit
  8. Allow parents to pick up and drop off students to the classroom
  9. Resume all classroom activities/parent involvement

As you are aware, the actions above are inconsistent with the requirements put forward by the Public Education Department, in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and/or guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, to protect the health and safety of staff and students, and to ensure continued access to in-person learning that is not disrupted by the spread of the COVID-19 virus. …

By noon on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, the board must take official action at a public meeting to rescind the actions listed above and/or to adopt a course of action that conforms to the published health and safety requirements. …

A failure by the board to provide written confirmation of a vote rescinding the offending course of action and/or adopting a course of action that conforms to the published health and safety requirements by noon on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, or any further violations of COVID-Safe Practices, could result in adverse licensure actions against licensed individuals, suspension of school board governance, and other applicable enforcement actions. Any punitive actions by the board against the Superintendent, other administrators, or school or district staff for following COVID-Safe Practices may result in immediate suspension of school board governance. Furthermore, the District will be subject to ongoing monitoring and site visits to ensure compliance with health protocols.

Related: New Mexico Threatens To Remove Board, Take Over School Rejecting Governor’s Masking Mandates

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