In November, three superintendents were purged from Florida public school districts by conservative school boards with ties to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.
Educators warn the purge is only beginning.
In Brevard and Sarasota Counties, the superintendents left voluntarily–under extreme pressure.
Their only other option was to face a vote on their terminations.
\u201cDeSantis backed school boards are responsible for a third Superintendent leaving their position since the election. Tomorrow Sarasota will still have their special meeting to discuss the now resignation of Dr. Brennan Asplen. Here is a copy of his statement to the community.\u201d— Florida Freedom to Read Project (@Florida Freedom to Read Project) 1669687380
In Broward County, the superintendent was fired through the efforts of five school board members directly appointed by DeSantis.
The three affected districts had enacted mask mandates during the height of the pandemic in opposition to Governor DeSantis' dictate not to adhere to any pandemic protocols. According to conservative leaders, the mask mandates violated parents' rights.
Palm Bay Republican state Representative Randy Fine said:
"We had a wave in school districts that spit in parents’ faces.”
“And now the people who did that are gone.”
During the worst of the pandemic, Rep. Fine fought to punish any schools that enacted mask mandates.
\u201cRemarkably, local conservative parents have come out to these FL board mtgs to say they have been duped, did not vote for the ousting of their superintendents. But to little avail. The new playbook of total ideological control is in full swing. https://t.co/T9pFbL0kWA\u201d— Jonathan Friedman \ud83d\udcda (@Jonathan Friedman \ud83d\udcda) 1669817437
Then in March 2023 Florida passed House bill 1557—the Parental Rights in Education Act. The law stated “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur.
This lead to the bill and resulting law being called the "Don't Say Gay" legislation.
DeSantis said in response to conservative school board wins:
"At the end of the day, we're not going to let this state be overrun by woke ideology."
"We will fight the woke in the businesses, we will fight the woke in government agencies, we will fight the woke in our schools."
"We will never, ever surrender to the woke agenda."
"Florida is the state where woke goes to die."
Conservative school boards campaigned on fear, hatredu and rhetoric about Critical Race Theory, LGBTQ+ people grooming children and lingering resentment over mask mandates and other pandemic protocols.
\u201cBrevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey held press conference with new right-wing school board chair to call for more severe discipline of students, saying they need to fear \u201clike in the old days\u201d that they\u2019re going to \u201chave the cheeks of their ass torn off for not doing right in class.\u201d\u201d— Shannon Watts (@Shannon Watts) 1669855664
\u201cRon DeSantis passed laws in his state to ban LGBTQ-themed books from Florida school boards. Not a far cry from Hitler\u2019s Nazis, who in 1933, burned roughly 20,000 books from the libraries of Germany\u2019s LGBTQ institute, Institut f\u00fcr Sexualwissenschaft:\u201d— Dash Dobrofsky (@Dash Dobrofsky) 1669496557
\u201cBitter at the loss of 2020 Election & recent convictions of Oathkeepers for sedition, Republican School Boards in FL are firing Superintendents who enforced mask mandates.\n\nLocal elections matter so vote BLUE!\n\n#wtpBLUE #ONEV1 #FreshResists #DemVoice1\n\nhttps://t.co/FhC7tR8Wbv\u201d— Dawn\u2019s Choice is Blue (@Dawn\u2019s Choice is Blue) 1669847562
\u201c@GoBlueFlorida1 @shannonrwatts I\u2019d like to see them try that in my school district. We just prevented moms of Liberty from joining or school board and we will stop this crap too.\u201d— Shannon Watts (@Shannon Watts) 1669855664
\u201c@ChrisHealth3 The face of evil Fascism on #Florida school boards with their Proud Boys - ban books,control curriculum, intimidate real teachers, indoctrinate our children to the Alt-Right doctrine -Welcome to #DeSantis control\u201d— ChrisHealth (@ChrisHealth) 1669930680
\u201cPutting poorly educated, mis/uninformed and bigoted people in charge of educating children is a very bad idea. \n\nDeSantis-backed school boards begin ousting Florida educators\n\nhttps://t.co/WnULnKBCJ5\u201d— John Oberlin (@John Oberlin) 1669830630
\u201cThis is so incredibly scary! It's happening all over Florida. These right-wing wackos are infiltrating local school boards, changing policies to add corporal punishment, and taking away the rights of LGBTQ kids. Who has a school board announcement in front of the jail?\u201d— Mary Beth Griffin (@Mary Beth Griffin) 1669906652
DeSantis endorsed more than two dozen school board candidates during the 2022 election cycleand backed it with $1,000 cash contributions from GOP lawmakers.
Most of DeSantis' candidates won.
They are now targeting any school district leadership that doesn't conform to a conservative vision heavily influenced by White nationalism and Christian nationalism.
These conservative majorities will set policies affecting hundreds of thousands of public school students in Florida.