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Ron DeSantis Doubles Down on His Mask Mandate Ban by Threatening To Withhold School Board Salaries

Families protest any potential mask mandates before the Hillsborough County Schools Board meeting

Just yesterday, we were talking about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and how hard he’s working to help facilitate the spread of COVID-19 in his state. And now he’s gone and made things even worse overnight.

Previously, DeSantis had signed legislation banning school districts from implementing mask mandates as kids terrifyingly head back to school amid the Delta surge. He also threatened to cut funding to any school district that required students or staff to wear masks, and the Florida School Board introduced an emergency rule allowing for students suffering the “harassment” of having to wear masks to transfer schools, even offering scholarships to those students.

Multiple school districts in Florida have chosen to defy DeSantis’ ban and are imposing mask mandates. According to ABC News, if those schools give an option for students to “opt-out” of the mandate, they’re not technically violating the order—although that seems to undermine the whole purpose of the mandate in the first place.

Now, in a statement issued to CBS Miami, DeSantis says there could be “financial consequences” for any school board officials who impose mask mandates, presumably whether or not students are allowed to opt-out.

“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,” the statement reads.

I did not know that withholding paychecks was even a legal option but it sure seems like it shouldn’t be. Earlier this year, DeSantis praised educators as heroes and issued $1,000 disaster relief bonuses to teachers throughout the state. He called Florida “the Education State.”

I guess DeSantis only values those educators when they’re not actively campaigning for their own safety and the safety of their communities.

In a response statementthe superintendent of Miami-Dade, Florida’s largest school district (which has not yet decided on its mask guidelines for the upcoming school year), told CBS, “We have established a process that requires consultation with experts in the areas of public health and medicine. We will follow this process, which has served us well, and then make a final decision.”

“At no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck; a small price to pay considering the gravity of this issue and the potential impact to the health and well-being of our students and dedicated employees,” he added.

(image: Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.