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“We are standing for what is right”: Alachua County School Board members vote to extend mask mandate

Alachua County School Board members voted unanimously to extend the mask mandate by eight weeks.
Alachua County School Board members voted unanimously to extend the mask mandate by eight weeks.(WCJB)
Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 12:18 AM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -Alachua County School Board members voted unanimously to extend the mask mandate by eight weeks. Dozens of people in support of a mask mandate and those supporting a parent’s right to choose spoke for hours at the meeting. Medical professionals from across the area, including UF Health Shands and North Florida Regional Medical Center, spoke up in support of extending the mask mandate.

The State Board of Education voted unanimously hours before the school board meeting on Tuesday to have Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran pursue legal action against the school district for violating the order. It is unclear what action will be taken now, but the commissioner may issue penalties, including withholding money and salaries, as well as removing officers.

“They would like for all of us to be unseated, every last one of us, because we are standing for what is right,” said School Board Chair Dr. Leanetta McNealy.

One of the many parents who addressed board members said the mask mandate is necessary.

“I first want to express my extraordinary gratitude for the 2-week mandate and for the personal risk you have all taken. Not only in your salaries being threatened, but I would be surprised, although I don’t know, but I would be surprised if you haven’t been threatened in other ways as well. For that, I thank you for putting the children our community ahead of yourself,” said Traci Amberbride, a teacher in Alachua County.

RELATED STORY: State determines ACPS is in violation of the law by mandating masks

One of the speakers supporting parental rights said school board leaders continue to defy Gov. DeSantis’ order.

“Keep my children, stay in the schools that they are in. I will not sit down and watch you take our rights away from us. No federal, state, or local government or any official of such government acting under the color of law shall interfere or usurp the right of a parent to direct the upbringing of the child or parents. It is very clear to tell you that it in needs to be least restricted if you do,” said Megan Straile.

The meeting reached capacity early in the evening. Three separate rooms were filled with people offering their comments.

On Wednesday night in this same building, Alachua County Commissioners will consider a countywide mask mandate.

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