DeSantis takes on feds in mask mandate showdown

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called out the U.S. Department of Justice and their investigation into the intimidation of school board members. The governor was clear that he wants the feds to stay out of Florida.

"The reason to do that is to intimidate parents. It’s to squelch dissent just to have them shut up," said DeSantis. "They have the right to hold people accountable. They have the right to voice their opinions. Particularly on some of these very key issues."

Brevard School Board member Jennifer Jenkins feels some parents go too far while making their voices heard. She tells FOX 35 News that she has been threatened, followed around in her car, and has had people out behind her home. 

Recent school board meetings have been heated. At one of those meetings, two people were arrested, and most recently the public was asked to leave. 

Gov. DeSantis said local law enforcement can help ensure peaceful debates. He went on to say the state won’t let the DOJ or anyone else infringe upon the parent’s choice. 

"To think that you could be home ironing your kid's clothes, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and the FBI can come knocking on your door because you said something, not violent, but you said something they deemed intimidating," said Keisha, a Brevard County parent.

Another parent, Jeffrey Steele, showed the mask he claims his daughter was forced to wear in school without the consent of him or his wife.

"Three people are deciding on the health of my child," said Steel.

His child has severe Down syndrome and he said wearing a mask for her can cause serious health concerns. 

"There’s a special place in hell for these people who have done this to this man’s daughter. We will make sure we hold them accountable for that," said State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay. 

The Brevard County School Board’s masking policy currently includes a medical opt-out. If cases in the county get below 50 per 100,000, it will transition into a parental opt-out. 

"I can tell you that our numbers went down once the mask mandate went into effect," said Chief Communications Officer for Brevard Public Schools Russell Bruhn. "We are going to be as responsible as we can and to ask our parents to be as responsible as they can."

The governor and others called out this mandate against state law and say the board is ignoring the wishes of the people. 

"You are not equal to the legislature," said State Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne. "Your role is to put in what we put in as policy and to protect the children in the school district."

The state has said they will withhold the salaries of the school board members in Brevard County for breaking state law by implementing a mask mandate. 

The county says they haven’t seen that yet but expect it to come soon. 

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