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Florida Withholds Funds From 2 Schools With Mask Mandates Despite Court Ruling



Last week, a court ruled that the state’s ban on mask mandates was unlawful and blocked agencies from taking punitive action against schools that require masks.

State Education Department Sanctions Schools

The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) announced Monday that it will withhold funds from two school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates.

In a press release, Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said that, under the direction of the State Board of Education, the agency “has withheld the monthly school board member salaries” in Alachua and Broward Counties and will continue doing so until they comply.

The move marks the latest development in the high-profile battle between the state’s Republican governor and the many school districts that have defied him. 

While the districts in Alachua and Broward are getting sanctioned, as of last week, more than half of all public school students in Florida now go to schools that are defying the masking ban.

However, it remains uncertain what impact the FDOE decision will have because it comes just days after a state judge ruled that the ban was unlawful and that DeSantis had overstepped his authority.

The judge also explicitly blocked the state’s Education Department from punishing local school boards. While DeSantis vowed to appeal the decision, the FDOE’s sanctions appear to be in direct violation of the current ruling.

Beyond that, it is also unclear exactly how the agency plans to withhold the salaries of the school board members because the state does not pay the salaries of local officials, and thus has no way of directly withholding them.

Corcoran has previously said he could withhold a monthly amount equivalent to school board members’ salaries. 

Still, the practical effect could be minimal because the Biden administration has said that any school district that gets state funding withheld for trying to protect their students with COVID precautions could use federal stimulus money to make up the difference.

School officials in Alachua have already said they are taking legal action, and those in Broward said they will keep their mask mandate in place.

Biden Administration Takes Action Against Masking Bans

While Florida’s ongoing battle over face-coverings has received national attention, it is not the only state with contentious anti-masking mandates.

On Monday, the Biden Administration announced through the Department of Education that it has launched investigations into whether universal bans on mask mandates in five states violate the civil rights of students with disabilities.

In letters to education leaders in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah, department officials alleged that the state’s bans “may be preventing schools from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate based on disability and from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from Covid-19.”

The agency argued that if students with disabilities feel unsafe returning to in-person classes because their classmates can not be required to wear masks, the bans could be considered discriminatory and a violation of federal civil rights laws.

If any of the states are found to be in violation of those laws, the federal government can withhold federal funding, though typically investigations of this nature end in agreements where the parties being investigated settle on a policy change rather than facing financial penalties.

Notably, the top education officials in both Oklahoma and South Carolina responded to news of the investigations by implying they support the probes and disagree with their state’s prohibitions on mask mandates.

The Education Department explained it is not bringing probes in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Arkansas — which all have similar rules —  because the bans in those states are currently not being enforced due to court orders or other actions.

Depending on how litigation plays out, the four states could also face federal action.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NBC News)


Kathy Griffin, Ethan Klein, More Suspended From Twitter Over Elon Musk Impersonations



Many have pretended to be Musk in an attempt to highlight the potential issues paid-for verifications could cause on the platform.

Musk Takes on Impersonations

Comedian Kathy Griffin and internet personality Ethan Klein are among the many Twitter users that have been permanently suspended for impersonating the platform’s new CEO, Elon Musk.

Impersonation has long been against Twitter’s rules, but on Sunday, the billionaire took the policy a step further by announcing that “any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended.”

“Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning,” Musk explained. “This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue.”

Musk also said that any user who changes their name will temporarily lose their verification check mark. 

The announcement came as many verified users began mocking Musk by changing their name and photo to match his, then tweeting jokes that were either absurd or out of character for the business mogul. Many did this to protest Musk’s plan to charge an $8 monthly subscription fee that would allow any Twitter user to become verified. 

Klein was one of many who changed his name to “Elon Musk” and made a photo of the CEO his profile image. The podcast host sent out several jokes, including one referencing the increased use of the N-word on the platform since Musk’s takeover, and another referencing Jeffrey Epstein.

“Even though Jeffrey Epstein committed horrible crimes, I do still miss him on nights like this for his warmth and camaraderie. Rest In Peace old Friend,” he wrote. 

His account was quickly banned, but Klein defended himself on TikTok, arguing that both his cover photo and bio labeled his account as “parody” and therefore should be acceptable under Musk’s guidelines. 

“What more do you want from me?” he asked. “Comedy is dead. And Elon Musk dug the grave.” 

Protests of Musk’s Twitter Control

For her part, Griffin likewise tweeted while masquerading as Musk, writing that after “spirited discussion with the females in my life, I’ve decided that voting blue for their choice is only right.”

Musk joked that she was actually “suspended for impersonating a comedian” and added that she can have her account back if she pays for the $8 subscription. Griffin, however, found another way around the ban.

The comedian logged into her late mother’s Twitter account and began using the hashtag #FreeKathy while calling out Musk. 

“Mad Men” actor Rich Sommer and podcaster Griffin Newman have also had their accounts suspended for tweeting as Musk. Other celebrities, including TV producer Shonda Rhimes, musician Sara Bareilles, and model Gigi Hadid have protested Musk’s Twitter reign by leaving the platform altogether.

“For a long time, but especially with its new leadership, it’s becoming more and more of a cesspool of hate & bigotry, and it’s not a place I want to be a part of,” Hadid wrote on Instagram over the weekend. 

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Variety) (The Verge)

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AOC Says Twitter Notifications “Conveniently” Disabled After Criticizing Musk



“What’s good? Doesn’t seem very free speechy to me,” she tweeted at the new CEO.

AOC Vs. Elon Musk

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said several of her Twitter features are “conveniently not working” after feuding with the platform’s new owner, billionaire Elon Musk.

Ocasio-Cortez has never been shy about her views on Musk. After he officially took charge of Twitter last week, the congresswoman began criticizing his new proposals for the social networking site, specifically his plan to charge an $8 subscription fee for verification. 

“Lmao at a billionaire earnestly trying to sell people on the idea that ‘free speech’ is actually a $8/mo subscription plan,” she wrote on Tuesday.

“Your feedback is appreciated, now pay $8,” Musk replied the following day.

Around an hour later, the business mogul sent another tweet appearing to call Ocasio-Cortez out for selling $58 sweatshirts. 

“Proud of this and always will be,” she shot back. “My workers are union, make a living wage, have full healthcare, and aren’t subject to racist treatment in their workplaces. Items are made in USA. Team AOC honors and respects working people. You should try it sometime instead of union-busting.”

In a follow-up tweet, she noted that proceeds go to community organizing programs, including one that tutors students who are falling behind because of COVID-19.

AOC’s Mentions Not Working

On Wednesday evening, just hours after her back-and-forth with Musk, Ocasio-Cortez told her followers that her “Twitter mentions/notifications conveniently aren’t working tonight.”

“I was informed via text that I seem to have gotten under a certain billionaire’s skin,” she added. “Just a reminder that money will never [buy] your way out of insecurity, folks.” 

The issue seemingly continued into Thursday morning when the Democrat tweeted a screenshot of her notifications page, which loaded no results. 

Why should people pay $8 just for their app to get bricked when they say something you don’t like?” she tweeted at Musk. “This is what my app has looked like ever since my tweet upset you yesterday. What’s good? Doesn’t seem very free speechy to me.”

Musk has repeatedly claimed that one of his primary motives to buy Twitter was to protect free speech. Once taking the reigns as CEO, though, he did say he would start a content moderation council and make decisions jointly with them.

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Insider)

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South Carolina County Votes Against Moving LGBTQ+ Friendly Books Away from Children’s Section



Efforts to limit LGBTQ+ content in libraries first began over the summer.

Attempts to Restrict LGBTQ+ Displays

The county council in Greenville County, South Carolina this week voted against discussing a resolution that would move all books “promoting sexuality” to the adult section.

This resolution is the culmination of months of turmoil in Greenville County. In June, libraries in the county removed Pride displays at the direction of library officials. Then in September, the county’s Republican Party executive board passed a resolution to call on the County Council to restrict access to books with LGBTQ+ themes and characters. 

The resolution was proposed by Joe Dill, an outgoing council member, as well as a member of the county’s Republican Party executive board. It proposed the council “officially order that no books or content, including digital copies or online accessible materials, promoting sexuality be allowed in the Children’s Sections of our public libraries.” 

Resolution Rejected

However, the resolution required the council to suspend its regular rules in order to discuss it as it was not submitted to the council via committee. The final vote was 9 to 3 against the suspension of the rules and effectively killed the resolution. 

Those that voted against it viewed the resolution as an overreach.

“We just do not believe that’s our job to get involved in the library’s business,” Council member Ennis Fett said to a local news outlet. “We appoint a board. We can not set a precedent of micromanaging the library board, because if we do that, then, we will be micromanaging all boards and commissions that we appoint.” 

Although the council decided not to get involved, the library still has the final decision to make regarding these books. Their meeting to discuss the matter is scheduled for December 5. 

See what others are saying: (Greenville News) (The Post and Courier) (7 News)

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