Ron DeSantis Flips Off Judge, Steals School Board Salaries In Mask Ban F***tussle
Ron DeSantis does not have time for your sick kids.
Florida's governor has his eyes firmly on the White House race in 2024, and he's not deviating one inch from the GOP base's anti-vax, anti-mask dogma. Ol' Ron is not about to let Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley get to the right of him, buddy, so please do not bother him with your whining about the Delta variant, or immunocompromised students, or kids under 12 not being eligible for the vaccine, or massive outbreaks the second Florida's schools opened. Not his problem!
Ron DeSantis does have time to be a petty, lawbreaking dick, though. For that, he's got all the time in the world. So DeSantis told his Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to dock the pay of school board members who voted to impose a mask mandate in defiance of the governor's executive order blocking them.
"We're going to fight to protect parent's rights to make health care decisions for their children. They know what is best for their children. What's unacceptable is the politicians who have raised their right hands and pledged, under oath, to uphold the Constitution but are not doing so. Simply said, elected officials cannot pick and choose what laws they want to follow," Corcoran said when he announced that the state is withholding the salaries of those board members who voted "aye" in Alachua and Broward Counties.
But wait, you are saying, didn't a judge just order the Florida Department of Education not to enforce DeSantis's mask ban?
You are correct! On Friday, Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper agreed with the plaintiffs — a group of Florida parents — that the mask ban violates the Florida Constitution and Parents' Bill of Rights. Lawyers for the state defendants argued that mask mandates "infringe on the fundamental rights of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of his or her minor child" in violation of the statute. But Judge Cooper pointed out that the state disregarded the end of the sentence, which reads: "without demonstrating that such action is reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest and that such action is narrowly tailored and is not otherwise served by a less restrictive means."
The court held that DeSantis's order blocking the school district from taking actions "reasonable and necessary" to protect students and teachers in a massive public health crisis — clearly a compelling state interest — was the real violation of the Parents' Bill of Rights. And so the court ordered the Florida Department of Education not to enforce it.
Now, there's perhaps a scintilla of wiggle room here in that Judge Cooper hasn't issued a written ruling yet, and so the DOE might be able to argue that it isn't technically bound by his express verbal injunction. Moreover, within moments of the written order being docketed, it will be appealed to the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, where it will likely be stayed. But Corcoran, who is a member of the Florida bar, is playing it pretty close to the line here. Particularly since he's gone out of his way to make it clear that he's deliberately violating the judge's order not to "enforce" DeSantis's ban.
"The Commissioner of Education and State Board of Education retain the right and duty to impose additional sanctions and take additional enforcement action to bring each school district into compliance with state law and rule," the DOE said in its announcement, without mentioning the court's decision on Friday. [Emphasis added.] He's not trying to bob and weave and call it a "fine" or a "penalty" — this is explicitly an effort to get the boards to fall in line.
Meanwhile, the people actually devoted to taking care of Florida's children are ignoring DeSantis and keeping the mask mandates in place. Yesterday the school boards in Brevard and Lee counties voted to mandate masks for students and teachers, joining 10 other counties in defying the governor.
Alachua School Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon recently published an opinion piece in the Washington Post explaining her plan to defy the governor on masks.
"I value life too much to take chances with the lives of others, even under the threat of retaliation. As our school board chair has so aptly put it, better a loss of funding than a loss of lives," she wrote.
Yesterday, Dr. Simon issued a statement threatening legal action to stop DeSantis's petty thuggery.
And until Judge Cooper issues a final order, which appears to depend on the plaintiffs' attorney drafting it (Florida, why are you like this?), the whole situation will remain status quo ante, i.e. total chaos.
Florida, Man, I don't know.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.