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New Mexico school district bucks Dem governor who had threatened to remove local school board for not complying with mask guidance

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The administration of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) reportedly threatened to upend a local school board for refusing to mandate face masks in schools just days before students return to the classroom.

What is the background?

The Floyd Municipal School District voted last month not to mandate face masks for students, a decision that went against New Mexico Public Education Department's "recommendations."

According to KRQE-TV, the school board "took their own actions to approve COVID-19 policies" at a special meeting last week. Among the policies adopted included: masks are optional for students, no air filtering, no temperature checks, and all classroom activity can return to what it was before the pandemic.

The school district is located in eastern New Mexico, and only 220 students are enrolled in the district, KQRE reported. Leaders in the small district say COVID-19 policies should be determined by the people who live there — not bureaucrats in Santa Fe.

What did the state do?

The Public Department of Education wrote the Floyd school board on July 27, one day after its decision, demanding they fall in line — or risk the state taking action to force their policies on the district.

The letter from the PDE said, according to the Daily Wire:

As you are aware, the actions above are inconsistent with the requirements put forward by the Public Education Department, in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and/or guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, to protect the health and safety of staff and students, and to ensure continued access to in-person learning that is not disrupted by the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

By noon on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, the board must take official action at a public meeting to rescind the actions listed above and/or to adopt a course of action that conforms to the published health and safety requirements.

A failure by the board to provide written confirmation of a vote rescinding the offending course of action and/or adopting a course of action that conforms to the published health and safety requirements by noon on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, or any further violations of COVID-Safe Practices, could result in adverse licensure actions against licensed individuals, suspension of school board governance, and other applicable enforcement actions. Any punitive actions by the board against the Superintendent, other administrators, or school or district staff for following COVID-Safe Practices may result in immediate suspension of school board governance. Furthermore, the District will be subject to ongoing monitoring and site visits to ensure compliance with health protocols.

The threatening letter came as the state demanded that all elementary school students, teachers, and administrators wear face masks during the upcoming school year.

How did the district respond?

The Floyd Municipal School District held an emergency meeting on Monday, voting 5-0 to defy the PDE.

The board will be sending a letter to officials in Santa Fe stating they have "no legal authority to remove Floyd's school board members as it had threatened to do," according to the Eastern New Mexico News.

The public reportedly voiced their support for the board's continued defiance during the meeting.

"I believe this is a victory for the state of New Mexico," board president Leon Nall said.

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