Monday, August 10, 2020

Health directors told to keep quiet as Florida leaders pressed to reopen classrooms. (USA Today)

Protecting the free speech rights of government employees must be a top job for government. 

When I was a young lawyer, I was honored to represent and advise scientists, engineers, environmental regulators, law enforcement, accountants and nine (9) federal administrative law judges, as Legal Counsel for Constitutional Rights of the Government Accountability Project in Washington, D.C., a 501c3 working for whistleblowers, and in private practice.

There were strong champions supporting whistleblower rights in Congress, including then-Reps. Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.) and John Dingell (D-Michigan), and Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

Who among our Florida elected officials plans to speak out and protect our health professionals from threats, intimidation and gag orders?

You tell me. 

From USA Today/Palm Beach Post:

Health directors told to keep quiet as Florida leaders pressed to reopen classrooms

Andrew Marra
Palm Beach Post

PALM BEACH, Fla. - As Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed this summer for schools to reopen, state leaders told school boards they would need Health Department approval if they wanted to keep classrooms closed.

Then they instructed health directors not to give it.

Following a directive from DeSantis’ administration, county health directors across Florida refused to give school boards advice about one of the most wrenching public health decisions in modern history: whether to reopen schools in a worsening pandemic, a Gannett USA TODAY NETWORK review found.

In county after county the health directors’ refrain to school leaders was the same: Their role was to provide information, not recommendations.

They could not tell school boards whether they believed the risks of opening campuses were too great, they said. They could only provide suggestions on how to reopen safely.

“I don’t think any of us are in a position to balk the governor,” one director said.

For frustrated school board members, it was a puzzling turnabout. Florida’s public schools have long depended on local health directors for recommendations on everything from reducing encephalitis risks at football games to how to test students during tuberculosis outbreaks.

But the directors’ new reticence aligned perfectly with DeSantis’ stated goal of pressuring Florida public schools to offer in-person classes.

Party killers:Colleges hope new rules will slow COVID-19 spread, students aren't convinced

Lacking clear guidance from their local health directors, school board members in many counties said they felt compelled to reopen classrooms despite serious misgivings about exposing teachers and students to COVID-19.

Keeping campuses closed, they said, risked violating an edict last month from state Education Commission Richard Corcoran, which decreed public schools “must open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week.”

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