DeSantis suspends four school board members after Parkland shooting probe, appoints replacements

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is again facing backlash from the left, despite this time having done exactly what a grand jury had recommended.

A Florida grand jury that was impaneled to investigate the Broward School Board’s response to the Parkland mass shooting ruled in a report last week that four board members, all of them reportedly Democrats, had “engaged in acts of incompetence and neglect of duty” in regard to the safety of children.

“[T]he grand jury found that the four school board members — and a fifth one who no longer holds that position — had ‘engaged in acts of incompetence and neglect of duty,’ in part for what the grand jury described as mismanagement of an $800 million bond issue approved by voters in 2014 that was intended to renovate schools and make them safer,” according to The New York Times.

Based on this finding, the grand jury recommended that the four still-active board members be suspended from the board. And so, in response, the governor did exactly that.

(Source: Florida Governor’s Office)

“Today, Governor Ron DeSantis suspended Broward School Board Members Patricia Good, Donna Korn, Ann Murray and Laurie Rich Levinson from office following the recommendations of the Twentieth Statewide Grand Jury to suspend these board members due to their incompetence, neglect of duty, and misuse of authority,” the governor’s office said in a press release.

“Even four years after the events of February 14, 2018, the final report of the Grand Jury found that a safety-related alarm that could have possibly saved lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ‘was and is such a low priority that it remains uninstalled at multiple schools,’ and ‘students continue to be educated in unsafe, aging, decrepit, moldy buildings that were supposed to have been renovated years ago.'”

The move elicited immediate praise from Stand with Parkland, a grassroots movement of “parents and spouses of the victims of the senseless violence in Parkland” who “are committed to advocating for public safety reforms focused on the safety of our children and staff at school.”

The left nevertheless pounced, starting with the four ousted Democrat board members.

“What country is this? What Governor DeSantis did is un-American and undemocratic. He doesn’t care about democracy and overturned the will of the voters. Because you may disagree on local policy decisions is not a reason to remove someone from elected office,” suspended board chair Laurie Rich Levinson barked in a statement to the Miami Herald.

“This is all about political retribution for not firing Superintendent Runcie. It’s about blaming the Superintendent, and any School Board Members who supported him, for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting,” she continued.

Former Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie was arrested and charged last year for “lying to the grand jury,” according to the Herald. But instead of firing him, the board, “citing its contractual obligations to Runcie, approved a nearly $755,000 separation agreement with him in a 5-4 vote in May 2021.”

Continuing her remarks, Levinson, a Democrat, also slammed DeSantis for the supposed crime of impaneling the grand jury in the first place.

“Governor DeSantis impaneled a Grand Jury, under the guise of school safety, as a pretext to remove School Board Members who did not fire the former Superintendent. Do future Board Members need to pre-clear their votes with DeSantis? Could future Democratic Governors now remove locally elected Republicans?” she said.

The answer is presumably “yes” in cases where a grand jury has recommended such a removal.

“I am very disappointed in the Governor’s decision to once again put politics above education in Broward County. I am confident that our community will see past the headlines and sound bites and focus on my record which stands on its own merits. I am undoubtedly the most qualified candidate to continue serving Broward County,” Donna Korn, another ousted board member, said in a separate statement.

Hyperbolic complaints about the governor’s suspensions can also be seen on social media:

Florida state Sen. Rosalind Osgood, a Democrat who used to be the board’s chair (she was the “fifth” board member mentioned by the Times), also issued a trash-talking statement.

“When you think about the democratic process, local citizens elect elected officials. It is my personal belief that unless someone commits a crime, no one has the right to remove them because then they go against the voters’ choice. And no crime was committed here or we would have been arrested,” she said.

As a reminder, 17 innocent people, most of them children, died during the Parkland massacre that was committed on Feb. 14th, 2018 …

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Vivek Saxena

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