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Florida education commissioner directed to determine fate of 2 school districts for defying Gov. DeSantis' mask mandate ban

The State Board of Education unanimously voted on the matter during Tuesday's emergency meeting

Editor's note: Video above is from a previous story.

It will be up to Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to decide the consequences, if any, for two Florida school boards that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates in schools.

Florida's State Board of Education held an emergency meeting Tuesday evening and unanimously directed the commissioner to further investigate the conduct and acts of Broward and Alachua counties superintendents and to take all legal steps to enforce the established rule.

That includes the ability to withhold funding, in the form of salaries, removing positions and public records requests, but the board specified it does not want funding pulled in a way that would "harm" students.

Prior to the questioning of Alachua County Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon and Broward County Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright, Chair Tom Grady said the members were there to determine if the two school districts, in fact, took a "path that appears to be contrary to the law."

According to Corcoran, the two school districts were "picking and choosing" which parts of the state rule to follow and were not in compliance with the Parents' Bill of Rights.

Both school districts are requiring parents who do not want their child to wear a mask in school to provide a doctor's note to do so.

Later in the evening, Alachua Schools said its school board voted unanimously to extend the district's mask mandate another eight weeks.

The battle over students wearing masks in the classroom began in late July when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order preventing schools from issuing mask mandates for students. 

Desantis said school districts that defy the order could lose school funding, his office later clarifying it would be the equivalent of the superintendent's salary.

Following DeSantis' order, the Florida Department of Health issued an emergency rule that says students may wear a mask in the classroom, but schools must allow parents the option to opt-out of any face-covering requirements for students.

The Florida Department of Education then met days before the new school year was set to begin and approved changes to both the student attendance policy and the Hope Scholarship. The latter now allows students to transfer schools if they experience "COVID-19 harassment" or discrimination from any schools' COVID-19 safety protocols or policies. 

Despite the order from DeSantis, several school districts have defied the order, including Alachua and Broward County. 

Here in the Tampa Bay area, both Hillsborough County Schools and Manatee County Schools have a type of temporary mask mandate in place that allows for parents to opt out. The option to not wear a mask, leaders say, keeps the districts from going against the health department's rule or the governor's order. 

RELATED: Florida DOE passes emergency rule allowing children to transfer schools due to 'COVID-19 harassment'

RELATED: 'Masks work': Florida lawmakers make plans to raise money for school officials if they lose salaries

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