Education leaders brace for mask mandate punishment

The state and the governor already laid down the hammer on school districts in the state that re-enacted mask mandates, even after a judge ruled schools can put them in place.

The School District of Lee County superintendent and some school board members told us they knew the risks, so punishment for the mask mandate is not top of mind.

The state hasn’t notified the District about any potential consequences as of Thursday.

Lee County school leaders are bracing for the state to punish the district for demanding students mask up in schools and on school buses.

“We have not heard anything from them at this point in time,” school board Chair Debbie Jordan said. “We know there was an opinion that came out from the attorney general, and so we’re just in a waiting mode right now.”

The opinion from Attorney General Ashley Moody said the governor’s executive order is still the law of the land until the judge issues his written order. She made her ruling public Wednesday.

Judge John Cooper released his written order late Thursday.

“Of course, we will appeal immediately,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said. “We will seek a stay of that.”

“They can ask the judge that entered the order to stay the effect of the order pending the appeals court decision,” said Attorney Robert Goodman.

Because a stay hasn’t been approved, the judge’s ruling is in effect. That means the state can’t punish school districts with mask mandates.

Monday, Florida Department of Education did just that, withholding school board members’ salaries in Alachua and Broward counties.

DOE is considering sanctions against nine more school districts with mask mandates.

We asked Jordan if she worries that could happen in Lee County.

“I don’t think that anybody has that on their mind,” Jordan said. “What’s on my mind is making sure that our kids are in school, that they’re being educated.”

We reached out to see if the education department has Lee County Schools on its list, but no one would not give us a direct answer.

The governor said, as soon as the judge’s written order is filed, the state will appeal.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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