By Jim DeFede

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The leading proponent of vouchers and private schools in the state legislature says he found the actions of the Centner Academy “pretty ridiculous” and “dangerous,” because of the founder’s threats to fire teachers who get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I found the stance pretty ridiculous, to be honest with you,” said Republican State Sen. Manny Diaz, “and I don’t understand it.”

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The owner of the Centner Academy, Leila Centner, has been threatening teachers since last week and pressuring them not to be vaccinated.

She repeatedly cites wild and debunked conspiracy theories to defend her threats, claiming, for instance that people who are vaccinated “may be transmitting something from their bodies” to people around them that will cause them to menstruate.

According to internal documents, Centner required every teacher and staff member at the school to fill out medical forms last week revealing if they have been vaccinated. In a video, she plainly states, “I have to draw a line in the sand today and tell you if you want to get [vaccinated], this is not going to be the right school for you.”

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Diaz said he is asking the state Department of Education and the Florida Department of Health to see if they can intercede. Diaz said he opposes creating vaccine passports but also objects to penalizing people who get the vaccine.

“We should not be asking people or requiring people that if they have taken a vaccine, they’re excluded,” he said. “So I do believe that that’s a big concern. And it could be a danger on the health care side, because if you have folks like that trying to dissuade people from taking a vaccine that’s available, I think that could be a problem as well.”

Diaz said he has never met the Centners and has never visited the school. Leila and her husband, David, are major Republican donors. The couple donated $1 million last year to Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and donated another million to Republican campaigns across the country.

Diaz said he is still confused by what Leila Centner and the school is doing.

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“I don’t really understand this,” he said. “But that this pandemic, and we’re seeing all kinds of things. So we don’t know what’s next.”

Jim DeFede