Florida House Rep. Anthony Sabatini, the Republican firebrand who’s been calling his own legislative colleagues “weak” for not outlawing school-mask mandates, wrote a letter to Flagler Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt and the school board today claiming Indian Trails Middle School students are “being deprived of their right to a public school education,” and that the school is “operating without a plan of curriculum, under a two-tiered class of students: vaccinated and unvaccinated.” The two-page letter goes on to make several other claims about students being “banned” from school and unvaccinated students “subjected to mandatory quarantine.”
Sabatini is not known for veracity. His letter is a series of fabrications and baseless claims, and reflects misinterpretations or mischaracterizations of existing state regulations issued by the state Department of Health. But the letter is also an indication of the speed and breadth of a misinformation campaign that had its origin with a Flagler County couple whose son was required to quarantine last week.
The boy’s parents–Jessico and Charles Bowman, organizers of a new local political pressure group associated with the Republican Liberty Caucus–themselves made numerous false claims or misinterpreted school and health department protocols. They did so in a concerted social media effort to draw attention and supporters at last week’s school board meeting. The fabrications have since taken on a life of their own, echoing in local social media, on the shriller fringes of the right-wing blogosphere or through such misinformation and conspiracy-theory peddlers as the Epoch Times. That publication last week got an enthusiastic shout-out from School Board member Janet McDonald, who has been boosting disinformation from her board seat.
Sabatini, however, repeated and amplified the fabrications on his legislative letterhead, giving his letter and its final, unveiled threat at least the sheen of authority: Governor DeSantis is aware of this issue and if you fail to take action you are opening up your school district to severe legal and legislative repercussions.” Sabatini remains the only member of the Legislature who’s called for a special session to enact bills that would forbid mask mandates and vaccine “passports”–measures that DeSantis has put in effect through executive orders. Sabatini has a history of bombast and flame-throwing: he used his letterhead last January to call on state leaders to reject Joe Biden’s election, encouraged the rally that turned into an attack on Congress on Jan. 6, and has since only ramped up his extremist rhetoric, seizing on issues of the moment to fuel his campaign for a congressional seat. Accuracy is not his forte.
Keeping in mind that at no point in the entirety of his letter does Sabatini substantiate his claims, provides any examples or any factual information, his letter’s first paragraph alone includes several falsehoods or misstatements.
He writes: “My office has been receiving alarming reports of healthy-asymptomatic students at Indian Trails Middle School being deprived of their right to a public school education, in-classroom learning, and being subjected to mandatory quarantine rules.”
This is in turn misleading, false and misleading again, although the word “alarming” does apply in one regard, though Sabatini did not intend it that way: as of Tuesday, 30 students at Indian Trails had been confirmed positive for covid since the beginning of the school year. The number of close contacts would be significantly higher. Over 50 percent of covid infections are asymptomatic. That’s why students who have had or likely had close contacts (of 15 minutes or more) with an infected individual are required to go through the same quarantine protocols as infected students, at least until they’re cleared by a covid test on the fourth day from infection. But none are “being deprived of their right to a public school education.”
Many–but not all–of those exposed to covid or their close contacts are denied in-class learning, that’s true, and being subjected to mandatory quarantine rules, but that’s in accordance with the state Department of Health’s emergency rule issued this month, which spells out those requirements. (The Department of Health answers to DeSantis.) The rule is explicit: “Students who are known to have been in direct contact with an individual who received a positive diagnostic test for COVID- 19 should not attend school,
school-sponsored activities, or be on school property” until the student remains asymptomatic and receives a negative covid test four days from the day of known exposure, or if the student chooses not to be tested but remains asymptomatic for seven days–or if the student is vaccinated, or has had covid in the previous 90 days. If the student is vaccinated, has had covid in the previous 90 days, and is asymptomatic, the student does not have to quarantine, and may continue in school as normal. That’s the state rule.
Sabatini states “this school is operating without a plan of curriculum.” This is false. Indian Trails, like all schools, post lesson plans online for students to keep up when they are sick or absent from school. As Ryan Andrews, the principal at Indian Trails, explained to the Bowman parent about her son on Aug. 16, the day he was pulled from class, “Any work he is unable to complete while at home may have up to the same amount of days that he was absent to turn in after his return to school. With our student ipads he will have his login to Schoology. His teachers may post work, content and resources for students to complete digitally. He and his teachers can communicate through Schoology or our school email.” And as Superintendent Mittelstadt further clarified in her message to parents last Friday, “For students who are quarantined, we have created an instruction guide on how we will keep learning going, which is one of the key components of our Back to School Guide. This document is now part of our Back to School Guide and will be shared with students and families as needed.”
The school, Sabatini says is operating “under a two-tiered class of students: vaccinated and unvaccinated,” with unvaccinated students deemed exposed to covid “cruelly held in isolation in the quarantine room with other students until they are retrieved by their parents.” This is false and misleading. The school is following the district’s protocol, which is following state Department of Education and Department of Health orders, which DeSantis has endorsed. Children who have or may have covid are separated from others. There is no cruelty: “It’s just a classroom, it’s not a disciplinary room, it’s not the in-school suspension room,” Kristy gavin, the school board’s attorney, said today, after reading the Sabatini letter. “It’s a place where the kid is sick. We put them in a room until their parent comes and pick them up. For purposes of quarantine, it’s kind of like you go to a doctor’s office, you have a well room and a sick room.”
In the case of the Bowman child, the health department had contacted his mother on Sunday, Aug. 15, to inform her that she should withhold her son. Jessico Bowman claimed the call was vague and the caller did not identify herself. “That is falsehood,” Flagler Health Department Chief Bob Snyder said. “That is not true. We identify ourselves.” Snyder said department of health staff follow a script when they call parents to inform them of needed quarantines, saying, typically, “I’m nurse so and so, I’m a case investigator with the Flagler Health Department, I’m calling you about your child.” The Bowmans chose to take their son to school anyway. Once school staff found out he was in class, staff separated him and called his mother to pick him up.
Bowman objected to her son being asked if he was vaccinated. She says he has a religious exemption from vaccines. That may well be, but Gavin said the question about vaccination is in line with the state Health Department order, and it is intended to give the parent and the child an opportunity not to miss school. “So here are the ways your child can come back,” Gavin said–in other words, not be quarantined: “Provide us this information, and if you have this information, come on back, no problem. That’s pursuant to the department of health rules. If they don’t want to provide it to us, they can provide it to the department of health.” That goes for both a vaccine or proof of infection within 90 days, either of which clears the non-symptomatic child to continue to attend school.
Sabatini in his letter draws the same mis-characterization of the situation as did the Bowmans, inverting the Flagler district’s very intention–to keep as many students in school as possible–into an attempt to exclude children by asking them about their vaccination status. The question is “not for purpose of–you must show us or you cannot,” Gavin said, but to comply with the Department of Health emergency rule and its focus on “the importance of in-person learning.” But the district must have information it can act upon before willy-nilly opening its doors to close contacts. “Those are the ways your child can return to school, so if you’re able to establish any of those, let us know, and we’re happy to allow them to return prior to the seven day requirement,” Gavin said. (In fact, the Bowman child returned to school on Monday, after seven days away, in compliance with the state rule and Flagler protocols.)
The Sabatini letter repeats the false same claims in different words further on (“Unvaccinated students are being banned from school and sent home without any plan for their education,” “Your board of education has created an illegal distinction between two classes of students,” and so on. Sabatini quotes two of the governor’s executive orders. He does not appear to be aware of the state Department of Education’s order or the emergency rule issued by the Florida Health Department.
Sabatini’s letter doesn’t call on the superintendent or the school board to respond by letter. “Do the right thing for our students and change this policy immediately,” he writes in his concluding paragraph, again citing a non-existent policy: “We don’t have a policy. We have protocols,” Gavin said.
“Governor DeSantis is aware of this issue and if you fail to take action you are opening up your school district to severe legal and legislative repercussions,” he ends. Sabatini has little pull in the Legislature (“So far I’m the ONLY elected Republican in Florida calling for a special legislative session to end this insanity,” he wrote on Tuesday of his push for outlawing mask mandates). But the mechanics of disinformation depend on only on fomenting the appearance of scandal–something the pinballing of falsehoods through conspiratorial websites and social media pages, including those of a local county commissioner, a would-be commissioner and a school board member, can now amplify with falsehoods written on official letterhead from the Florida House of Representatives.
Jimmy 59 says
This joker needs to pay attention to his own district and let our local leaders handle the situation in our own area. This guy and people like him (McDonald) are the reason we have had so many more deaths in Flager county the past couple of weeks. People who don’t care about their neighbors. It’s all about them and their feeling and could care less about others or doing the right thing to get the heck out of this situation we are all in.
Let him threaten, stomp his feet, yell and scream like the little man he is. Just because you were bullied when you were a kid does mean you can start bullying others now that you feel you have a little, very little, power. The little boy sitting in the corner and nobody will listen to him.
The same goes for all these other people who don’t care about anyone but themselves. “They have the right not to wear a mask or be vaccinated”. You lose that right when it becomes something that affects everyone around you though and my rights.
I can’t believe we are still hearing about people like this and McDonald. We are now going into another fall/winter and it’s not getting any better. If Deathsantis clamped down a long time ago, along with these others who don’t care about their fellow man/women, we would be done with this or at least be at a manageable level.
I hope more businesses mandate a vaccine to work at their places. I hope more doctors and nurses walkout to show they are fed up with ignorance. I hope health insurance companies smarten up and make these people pay more for their insurance as they do for smokers etc..
Get your heads out of the sand and as I use to tell my kids, smarten up.
The dude says
Flagler county can’t even get their school buses to run on time.
Like they need this from the low information rubes and dullards right now.
Next stop is... says
I vote let Desanti and Sabotage… Sabotini … whatever.. drive the buses. Heck the two of them blow enough hot air that all they’d need to do to get the buses to roll forward, is to roll all the windows down. Flagler’s first natural gas powered busses!
Bill C says
This reminds me of Jim Jones, the cult leader who got his followers to kill themselves by drinking poison Kool-Aid to prove their devotion to the “cause”.
Does Board Member McDonald know that the Epoch Times is an instrument of the Chinese Communist Party?
The Epoch Times is not an instrument of the Chinese Communist Party. It is an instrument of Falun Gong, it is an as virulently anti-China (or at least anti-Chinese Communist Party) publication as it is pro-Trump, and it is banned in China.
Tired of this says
Another Marjory Taylor Green wannabe. Another instance of a Republican elected official spreading misinformation to get his name in the media. He doesn’t care about the children, it is all about making a name for himself.
Don’t get the free government vaccine to avoid getting sick. Take your already overpriced insurance to pay an overpriced co-payment at your overpriced doctor.
Funny thing, so many republican politicians have money in Covid treatment drugs. Might that be a reason they want everyone to get covid?
Continue to vote Republicsn, we will be a country of lies and no truths.
Mark Woods says
If these parents are so smart, why don’t they just fill out their brats’ report cards too?
It is sad commentary that there are so many uneducated people in Flagler county.
Isn’t it though! I encourage all to stop by Home Depot or Lowe’s and read the disclaimer printed on every box of N95 masks!
Sabatini, DeathSantis and other republicans around the country are fighting for the trump cult followers to have the freedom to get covid and die from it.
Their voter base is shrinking, don’t they realize that????
Florida House Rep. Anthony Sabatini + the Republican Liberty Caucus + the Epoch Times = the Three Stooges.
Mike Cocchiola says
Well, I guess we get what they (District 32) voted for. Stupidity just oozes from the Republican Party.
District 32? Durn .. I figured that number on his podium was his I.Q.
Only Me says
Why is the Cult GOP Republicans like this clown so against protecting the people they represent? Why do they sit back and witness the climbing deaths in Florida because of their own political believes?
Watch the national news people the State of Florida now has children dying in hospitals because these clowns won’t protect them or the people of Florida.
They should all be impeached.
And now a Florida hospital has been forced to turn away a “cancer” patient for emergency treatment because Covid patients have taken up all the beds.
Horrific DeSantis is still doing all he can to STOP safety measures that have been “scientifically” proven to help diminish this lethal disease.
Yes, of course, he should be impeached! Unfortunately there are too many mindless trump cult members (Floridiots) in our state.
OOPS! Here is the link to the hospital story:
A photograph of a box of disposable masks shows a warning label that says the masks “will not provide any protections against COVID-19.”
Such disclaimers don’t mean that the masks are ineffective at slowing the spread of the disease, but that they don’t protect the wearer as well as medical respirators such as the N95 recommended for use by health care professionals. Disposable and homemade cloth masks are recommended for people to wear because it protects others around them in case they have the virus and may not be showing any symptoms.
The users sharing this image are making a false interpretation of the type of protection standard face masks provide
And this quote in that article says it all
“”There’s not a single patient that we’ve had to intubate because of a complication from the vaccine. The people we’re intubating, the people that are on life support, the people that are dying are the ones that are not vaccinated.”
Florida Girl says
I think he does not give one flip about our schools, or this particular situation. I came upon his angry little letter in one of our local Facebook gossip/news groups – the kind that photos the stray dog, or free curb alert – need my yard mowed kind of “news” groups. Shortly after reading it, acknowledging I read it with a comment or a emoji expression – I got this brand new invite to his Facebook page – I take the click bait. It brought me to an invite for a cash donation for a ticket with a chance to win an AR-15. This angry letter and the link to the gun both ran on the same day, hours apart. He was trolling comments or emojis – for cash. Not for DeSantis’s no mask gig. Call me crazy, but, it is my official “opinion” on all that.
Quit giving the whack jobs media exposure.
just political says
What happened to get vaccinated and your immune from the virus ? And a mask protects you ? Why all this anger then over those who don’t want to get vaccinated or wear a mask ? Aren’t we protected because we did what we were to do ? I’m vaccinated and wear a mask in public. My immune system is compromised every time I leave my home because I have health issues, anemia and blood transfusions at least every 3 months. I don’t care if those who refuse to get vaccinated or wear mask are jeopardizing their own lives. They aren’t jeopardizing mine, or I was told a few months back. So….Why is everyone up in arms over this ? Seriously, aren’t we protected from them ??
Our children and grandchildren, last year they weren’t getting the covid as much as us older generations, so the issue to vaccinate never really came up. Now that 75% of adults are, they’re focusing on our kids to get the Jab. Why now, because of the variant Delta ? All these people coming across our borders, are they subject to the same guidelines we are ? Why not ?
I have so many questions and yet as ” I ” think, standing on my own 2 feet, not depending on any news source or anyone , why isn’t anyone else asking these questions. A mixed bag of Nuts is what I see ! Anything to throw anyone under the bus that doesn’t happen to agree on the subject of the day , Dr Falchi , I don’t know how to spell his name and really don’t care to know, is all over the place when it comes to demands of ” you should be doing this”, ” you should be doing that”, he can’t remember what he said yesterday let alone a year ago ! But most will follow what he has to say, not thinking on their own 2 feet!! This school thing has become a battle ground now. Why now ? Last year our kids sat at home and did their studies, yes it made them depressed because they weren’t around their friends, yes, some couldn’t keep up with their peers when it came to grades, there were a lot of differences, but school and getting them back into schools never came up. Everyone just went with the flow. Now it’s become the choice of dissension, that and people not getting the Jab or wearing mask !
Why is this all an argument, name calling, not being able to agree to disagree ? Sitting down and talking it over like adults should do, not making it political period……..That’s what this ALL has become, POLITICAL, everyone wants to make it their way to please this party or that party. Why can’t we go back to the good old days when we discussed things and came to an agreement ? Now we sue this one, and that one , all because we don’t get our way !
Now, If only someone will answer my questions with out jumping down my throat, I’m looking for real honest answers, no name calling, just down home kind of answers. I know I won’t get this published, but oh well, again, it’s all political !!
The commenter is asking questions that have gained traction as the latest means of deflecting from facts or furthering a false narrative. Neither vaccines nor masks were ever presented as fool-proof barriers, but as mitigators–as part of the so-called swiss-cheese approach to containing the disease, with the understanding that the more compliance with that series of measures, the higher the chance of stopping the spread. The comment goes on to pose other questions from the same straw-man veins, including the ongoing smears about migrants, who a) are rejected if covid positive and b) are far less likely to be positive than Americans, Floridians especially. It is disingenuous of the commenter to then ask why “not being able to agree to disagree,” considering the tone, as derisive to facts as it is to those the commenter seems to be addressing.
@justpolitical. . . We cannot just agree to disagree when it “Scientific FACTS” vs “Conspiracy Theories”!
With over 600,000 dead in the US alone and more dying every day, we now have a way to end this horrific plague with a vaccine that is “fully approved” by the FDA. Yet, we have a situation where those who continue to spread a very highly contagious and deadly disease are holding our lives hostage by refusing to protect the rest of us by not getting vaccinated/wearing a mask! Some are even becoming seriously ill because they are stupidly taking dangerous horse worming medication, instead of the vaccine. . . because of BS on FOX/Facebook.
So, NO. . . This is not and a mere political difference. . . this is about “LIFE” and “DEATH”!