Nassau County executive cannot tell schools to defy mask mandate, group says

The Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association wants to clear up any confusion.

School Boards president Michael Kelly said Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman has no legal authority to tell schools not to follow New York's mandate requiring masks indoors.

"We follow the rules of the state," Kelly said.

In a letter, Kelly called on Blakeman to withdraw his executive order directing school boards to vote on whether masks should be mandatory for children in school, directly defying a statewide mask mandate for students.

"This isn't a money or mask issue," he said. "This is about his authority over school boards, and he has none."

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Despite this argument, Blakeman still said he plans to stick by his executive order.

"The Supreme Court of the United States is going to make a decision very soon on mandates," Blakeman said.

Some districts in Nassau County, including Massapequa, support Blakeman's decision but have chosen not to vote until they receive input from all constituent groups and legal teams. However, other districts, including Oceanside and Jericho, still plan to enforce the mask mandate.

"The governor's directive that masks must be worn in school is the right move," Jericho Superintendent Hank Grishman said. 

After Blakeman signed the executive order last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul fired back. She warned districts they could lose state funding for any mask violations.

But Blakeman called her tactics nothing more than bullying and inappropriate.

"What the governor would do if she defunded our schools is hurt our kids more than any mandate would protect them," he said.

School board officials told me they hope what they call "this distraction" is short-lived. They said schools have much more to deal with during this very stressful time.

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