N.M. School Board Suspended for Resisting Mask Guidelines
- By Matt Jones
- August 06, 2021
The New Mexico Public Education Department has suspended an entire five-person school board after its members voted to ignore statewide mask guidelines. The Floyd Municipal Schools school board in Roosevelt, N.M., met last week and voted twice to make COVID-prevention measures like masks, social distancing, and staff testing optional for the upcoming school year. The vote goes against guidance from both the New Mexico Public Education Department and the CDC.
“We never want to suspend a school board. That’s not the relationship that we want to have,” said Sec. Ryan Stewart, New Mexico Public Education Department. “It’s incumbent on us to lead here and step in and say, ‘We have to create safe environments for our kids.’”
According to local news, the board made its decision on Monday, July 26, and was given an ultimatum of Tuesday, Aug. 3, to rework the policy. Board President Leon Nall said the board refused. The board also voted to place Floyd Municipal Schools Superintendent Damon Terry for refusing to carry out the board’s decision. Stewart has since moved to reinstate Terry as superintendent.
“The PED takes its responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all staff and students incredibly seriously,” said Stewart in a memo. “We cannot put students, staff and their families at unnecessary risk as we continue the fight against the Delta variant. By ignoring these basic safety measures, the board impairs the ability of the district to offer safe and uninterrupted in-person learning opportunities.”
Floyd Municipal Schools has only 225 students and 20 teachers. State Sen. David Gallegos has questioned whether the PED acted legally in suspending the entire board: “[The board members] represented the best interests of the children in their district,” he said in a statement to the Associated Press. “This gross violation of local authority is disrespectful to the students and families of Floyd and may even be a violation of New Mexico law.”
According to local news, as part of due process, the board will automatically get a hearing regarding their suspension within the next 60 days. Members of the board have the option to contest the decision, but they have not yet said whether or not they will.