“It is my duty to remove people from office if there is clear evidence of incompetence, dereliction of duty, misdemeanor or misdemeanor,” DeSantis said in a statement. “We are grateful to the judges who have devoted countless hours to this mission and we hope this suspension takes the Parkland community another step towards justice.”
Encompassing Fort Lauderdale, Broward County is the nation’s seventh largest school district and is responsible for approximately 260,000 students. The rare decision to forcibly remove elected officials from office has been praised by the families of victims of school violence, but has also sparked accusations of political overreach.
DeSantis suspended Patricia Good, Donna P. Korn, Ann Murray and Laurie Rich Levinson from the board. (The jury also recommended the removal of a fifth board member, who has since been elected to the state Senate.) While the school board members’ positions are impartial, all elected officials DeSantis removed are registered as Democratic voters. Some of their replacements worked in Republican politics.
“Which country is this? What DeSantis administration did is un-American and undemocratic,” Levinson said, according to the Miami Herald. “Because you may disagree on local policy decisions, this is not a reason to remove someone from elected office.”
Earlier this month, DeSantis also removed an elected Democratic county attorney for refusing to prosecute certain cases related to abortion and gender-affirming care; the official has sued for reinstatement.
DeSantis, who is seen as a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, has made a name for himself in conservative circles by intervening in things like teaching racial and LGBTQ issues in schools. Earlier this week, conservative candidates who supported his education agenda triumphed in more than a dozen local contests.
The governor’s intervention “is very unusual,” said William Bainbridge, an expert on educational institutions in Florida. “My concern is whether the nefarious activities taking place here are an excuse for Ron DeSantis to hire people who are like-minded with him.”
DeSantis Increases Influence With School Board ‘Anti-Woke’ Wins
Relatives of the victims of the 2018 shooting applauded DeSantis for holding officials accountable. “They directly influenced decisions that caused indiscipline and had our children and husbands killed,” said Tony Montalto, president of Stand With Parkland, an advocacy group made up of the victims’ families. “Failing to do their job contributed to the deaths that occurred… That’s not political.”
In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the Florida Supreme Court convened a grand jury at DeSantis’ request. The panel was asked to investigate whether school districts were accepting state funds to enhance security measures without properly implementing them. The report found that promised projects were delayed and significantly more expensive in Broward County than the school board had originally estimated.
“Students are still being educated in unsafe, outdated, dilapidated, moldy buildings that would have been renovated years ago,” the study found.
“District officials often act as if they have no interest in even knowing the reality of their schools, reminding us of nothing so much as the proverbial herd of ostriches that bury their heads to avoid confrontation with reality,” wrote the grand. jury.