NMPED: Floyd school board suspended after refusing to comply with mask guidelines

[anvplayer video=”5048233″ station=”998127″]

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The five-member Floyd school board was suspended Wednesday after refusing to comply with the New Mexico Public Education Department’s guidelines on masks and COVID-19 protocols.

"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 upon us to lead here and step in and say, ‘We have to create safe environments for our kids.’"

The Floyd board voted July 26 at a special meeting to make masks and social distancing optional. They were given until Aug. 3 to rework their policy.

Leon Nall, the board president, said they wouldn’t rework the policy.

So, NMPED Secretary Ryan Stewart suspended all of the school board members: Leon Nall, Jeff Essary, Vicki Banister, Charlsea Lee and Ryan Bollema.

"I think the governor’s office and her Public Education Department is going a little bit too far on this. It’s a small school district, and they know their students and they know their situations," said Republican Sen. Stuart Ingle.

The board had also voted to place Damon Terry, the superintendent of Floyd Municipal Schools, on administrative leave. NMPED Secretary Ryan Stewart reinstated Damon Terry as superintendent.

“The PED takes its responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all staff and students incredibly seriously. 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,” Stewart said in the suspension memo.

The governor’s press secretary provided the following statement:

"The governor fully supports the actions of the Public Education Department to prevent the spread and minimize the risk of COVID-19 in New Mexico schools. Children and educators deserve the safest possible learning environment. Vaccine and mask misinformation kills. COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled in less than a month in our state, and new cases are at a six-month high. New Mexicans, regardless of vaccination status, are encouraged to wear masks indoors to minimize the spread and risk of COVID-19 in accordance with CDC guidance. The governor appreciates each and every one of the thousands of school board members, educators, school staff and parents all across New Mexico who are committed to going above and beyond to ensure a safe, in-person school year."