Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday vowed to fight back against the U.S. Justice Department’s efforts to intimidate parents who speak out at local school board meetings.
“We’re going to fight to preserve the rights of parents,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Titusville, Florida.
Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland sent a memo to the FBI directing it to coordinate with the nation’s 14,000 school districts to address alleged “threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”
The directive came just days after Joe Biden received a letter from the National School Boards Association (NSBA), that equated concerned parents to “domestic terrorists,” and accused them of sending “threatening letters and cyberbullying” school officials.
“As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” wrote the NSBA.
Concerned parents have been flooding school board meetings coast to coast to speak out against critical race theory, transgender policies, gay porn in elementary school libraries, and the cruel, and unnecessary mask mandates that have been imposed on schoolchildren.
Last week, House Judiciary Republicans sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland calling for an ethics inquiry into his memo, saying it was an attempt to stifle First Amendment protected speech, and had an appearance of impropriety due to his son-in-law’s links to critical race theory curriculum.
Today, @JudiciaryGOP sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland calling for an ethics inquiry into his memo directing the FBI to mobilize against parents who protest at local school board meetings. pic.twitter.com/Y9f9rqhEX0
— Rep. Mike Johnson (@RepMikeJohnson) October 13, 2021
Gov. Ron DeSantis said parents have been voicing concerns over may key issues, particularly school mask mandates, and that the FBI’s mobilization against parents is an infringement on their First Amendment rights.
“They have a right to hold people accountable. They have a right to voice their opinions, particularly on some of these very key issues,” he said.
DeSantis also pointed out that any issues involving threats or harassment of school officials can be handled by local law enforcement, and don’t need federal investigators to intervene.
“Law enforcement up and down the state has been united to say, ‘we don’t need federal agents coming in to do this. It’s designed to intimidate. It’s designed to squelch dissent, and that is not an appropriate use of federal law enforcement.”
The governor was joined by Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo and Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey.
“I think one of the reasons we wanted to do this is just to make clear that any parent that may feel threatened or cowed into coming out and participating in civil discourse, they shouldn’t be, that you will be protected and that we’re going to make sure to stand with you at the state level,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis introduced several parents supportive of the Parents’ Bill of Rights passed by the Florida legislature, and highlighted how certain school boards such as Brevard County continue to impose mask mandates on schoolchildren.
“Of course they’re going to want to speak out. Of course, they’re going to want to make their voice heard. I mean, I think that’s, at the bottom what any parent would want to do,” he said.
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey called the DOJ’s focus on parents “outrageous,” and vowed to defend them.
“For those parents that are out there, I want you to know that from me, all the sheriffs that are standing here, and I think I speak for all of us across this great state: We are your first line of defense, we’re the last line of defense for you as well,” Ivey said.
The governor said the state would not cooperate with the feds, and “we’ll do whatever we can to thwart such investigations.”
“We’re not going to be cooperating with any federal investigation into parents,” DeSantis added.
A Brevard County parent came forward to talk about how his special needs child was masked against her will and her parents’ will.
Dr. Jeffrey Steel explained that his 7-year-old daughter Sophia, who has Down’s Syndrome, has an enlarged tongue, which makes breathing difficult when she’s masked.
Steel said his daughter was “masked against our awareness,” and the school appeared to be hiding it because “she was not coming home with a mask on.”
“Except this one day on October 7 when my wife got her off the bus to bring her home,” he explained. “The bus left, and she noticed this blue cord around my daughter’s face with this very soiled mask that was completely soaked from Sofia’s saliva. Because this is what happens when a sensory effect is taking place—the fact that she is having breathing issues. She will produce a lot of saliva.”
Steel complained that her teacher had tied the soiled mask “around her head” without ever phoning him or his wife to ask for permission.
He said that he met with the school principal and Sophia’s teacher and found out that they had been forcing the mask on his daughter ever since the school had voted to reinstall the mask mandate.
“This has nothing to do with masks and science, and everything to do with power and control,” Steel declared.
He said that although his daughter couldn’t speak up for herself, he would be taking legal action against the school, “and they will understand my voice when I do that.”
If you can, please share #SophiasRights story and GoFundMe to help pay for their legal and childcare fees moving forward. @BrevardSchools must be held accountable for their abuse of this child. #JusticeForSophia https://t.co/Lq1XbfWypd
— M4L Brevard (@M4LBrevard) October 20, 2021
The Steels’ full story can be read here.
Dr. Ladapo said that there is little to no data to show that masking kids is beneficial.
“In Florida, we’re going to stay close to the data, and we’re going to let you know how we feel about the data,” he said. “The data do not support any clinical benefit for children in schools with mask mandates. The highest quality data finds no evidence of that.
Lapado argued that putting a mask on a child’s face should be the parent’s decision—not the school board’s decision, not the governor’s decision.
“Parents are being placed in these impossible situations related to the heath of their children,” he said.
DeSantis said the Parents’ Bill of Rights will be “fortified” to “give parents a more speedy and effective way to vindicate their rights.”