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Thursday, September 2, 2021

Orange County schools threatened by Florida Department of Education following mask mandate

Posted By on Thu, Sep 2, 2021 at 3:42 PM

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Florida's Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran sent a letter to Orange County Public Schools announcing an investigation into the district after the OCPS School Board voted to adopt a mask mandate in county-run schools.

In the letter, Corcoran accuses the school district of violating a rule put in place by the Florida Department of Health that required all mask mandates to include an opt-out clause for parents. The state of Florida argued a similar case before a Florida judge last week, while defending Governor Ron DeSantis' blanket ban of mask mandates in schools.

The state based their argument on the legislature's recently passed Parent's Bill of Rights. The judge ultimately found that a before-the-fact ban on mask mandates violated the process set forth in that law for school districts to defend their own decisions.

While the state is appealing the judge's ruling, which overturned the statewide prohibition of mask mandates, Corcoran is clearly moving on to a different tactic. The judge in that case enjoined the Department of Education from taking further action under the order against school districts. That hasn't stopped Corcoran from threatening funding in other school districts this week. In short, the response from the state has been to ignore a judge's order.

“I intend to recommend to the State Board of Education that the department withhold funds in an amount equal to the salaries for all the members of the school board, as well as other sanctions authorized by law, until the district comes into compliance,” Corcoran wrote in the letter to Superintendent Barbara Jenkins sent last week.

His actions following the ruling indicate that he may well make good on those threats.

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