Florida could withhold salaries of school superintendents who institute COVID-19 restrictions

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FILE – In this May 18, 2021 file photo, fifth-graders wearing face masks are seated at proper social distancing during a music class at the Milton Elementary School in Rye, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

(NewsNation Now) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is threatening school superintendents who defy his ban on mask mandates and vaccine requirements.

“Withholding” the salaries of superintendents is on the menu, Florida press secretary Christina Pushaw confirmed to NewsNationNow.com.

In a statement, Pushaw said the state is looking to come up with punishments that don’t hurt students or teachers.

“Education funding is intended to benefit students first and foremost, not systems,” Pushaw said. “The Governor’s priorities are protecting parents’ rights and ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality education that meets their unique needs.”

It’s the latest in an escalating back-and-forth between the state and a handful of districts. DeSantis has banned any state or local mask and vaccine mandates. However, some district leaders are trying to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that schools require students and staff to wear masks.

DeSantis has framed this as a parents’ rights argument, though CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has said children are more likely to get infected and spread the delta variant than previous forms of COVID-19. Children younger than 12 years old will likely not be eligible for vaccines for months yet.

The Florida Board of Education recently authorized private school vouchers for parents who feel their students are being “harassed” by a district’s COVID-19 policies.

“’COVID-19 harassment’ means any threatening, discriminatory, insulting, or dehumanizing verbal, written or physical conduct an individual student suffers in relation to, or as a result of, school district protocols for COVID-19, including masking requirements, the separation or isolation of students, or COVID-19 testing requirements, that have the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance,” the rule reads.

DeSantis has also tried to ban businesses from creating so-called vaccine passport requirements. Monday, a judge said Florida could not prevent a private business from requiring its customers show proof of vaccination.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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