FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Broward County School Board members and parents are sounding off after a warning from the Florida State Board of Education, which followed up on its threat to financially penalize local school officials who impose student mask mandates.
“We really wish the governor would give us a chance, allow us to do this our way,” said Dr. Rosalind Osgood, Broward School Board Chair.READ MORE: Rodney Rodriguez, Driver In High-Speed Crash That Killed 3, Finally Booked Into Jail
The order issued Friday says, “the State Board of Education finds that the School Board of Broward County’s noncompliance and knowing failure to follow the law unlawfully denies Broward County parents and legal guardians of their right to make fundamental health and educational decisions for their children by choosing whether their children should be masked in public schools.”
Dr. Osgood said the district is complying and they’ve done what they’ve been asked to do.
“We have mask options for students that have 501 plans or IEP or medical notes,” explained Osgood.
The Board of Education is giving Broward and Alachua county school districts 48 hours to comply with the state statute and rule on masks.
The order states that “the Florida Department of Education is directed to begin withholding from state funds, on a monthly basis, an amount equal to 1/12 of the total annual compensation of the school board, as an initial step.”
“If we have to suffer a salary loss or whatever we cannot put people’s lives in danger, we cannot be pushed into this place of parochial self-interest,” said Dr. Osgood.
Dr. Osgood said the board has voted to have their legal counsel explore legal options to challenge the order and will respond within 48 hours.
The orders also said the districts broke a new state law known as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” that deals with parents’ ability to control health and education decisions for their children.READ MORE: MDPD: NW Miami-Dade Shooting Suspects In Critical Condition After Crash
“It is important to remember that this issue is about ensuring local school board members, elected politicians, follow the law. These public officials have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Florida. We cannot have government officials pick and choose what laws they want to follow,” state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said in a news release announcing the orders Friday.
But Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, quickly condemned the orders.
“Every single Floridian regardless of political affiliation should be upset by this decision to withhold taxpayer dollars for public education over local education leaders’ enforcement of national health guidelines clearly intended to meet their most important constitutional obligation to all citizens, which is protecting their health, safety and welfare — and that certainly includes children,” Book said in a prepared statement.
Meanwhile, parents and grandparents picking up their loved ones from Driftwood Elementary School tell CBS4 News that they are backing the district’s decision.
“If they don’t want to wear masks well, they can send them to an alternative school or online school if that’s the case, but the school board and superintendent, teachers whoever should not be penalized,” said Eloise Weekes, grandparent.
All but one Broward school board member voted in favor of the mask mandate.
School boards in Hillsborough, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties this week joined Alachua and Broward in approving similar mask mandates. The orders Friday did not address Hillsborough, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.
The effort to prevent mask mandates has drawn criticism from President Joe Biden’s administration.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona issued the following statement in response to the Florida DOE’s orders.MORE NEWS: COVID Booster Shot Confusion Ahead Of FDA Advisory Committee Meeting
“The Biden Administration is fully committed to a safe and healthy return to in-person learning for all students this fall. It is deeply troubling to see state leaders putting politics ahead of the health and safety of our students, and that instead of supporting our educators for doing the right thing, state leaders are trying to punish them. This week, the President asked me to do everything I can to help protect our nation’s students and support the local leaders who are fighting for them. Let me reiterate: we stand ready to assist any district facing repercussions for imposing CDC-recommended COVID-19 prevention strategies that will protect the health and safety of students, educators, and staff. To that end, we’ve also made clear to district leaders that any financial penalties imposed by the state can be addressed immediately using CARES, CRRSA, or American Rescue Plan funds. Today, I also spoke directly to the Superintendents of Broward and Alachua County schools to reassure them that the President and his Administration stand with them and with all educators who put student and staff health and education first.”