Masks

Sarasota County School Board member Shirley Brown wears a mask during a meeting Aug. 4. She is the target of a social media campaign that wants to have her recalled from her seat.

SARASOTA — A group called Concerned Parents of Sarasota Schools is collecting signatures in an attempt to expel Shirley Brown, a longtime member of the Sarasota County School Board.

So far, the group has 1,300 members and is gathering signatures to send to Gov. Ron DeSantis, hoping he can remove Brown, who they say isn’t listening to parents.

A formal recall process exists, but that’s not the route the group is apparently following at this time, although it remains an option, according to petition author John Wilson.

In a span of four days, the group’s Stand United petition had received more than 1,000 signatures of the targeted 2,500 sought urging DeSantis to remove Brown.

Niva Hirsh, one of three parent administrators of the group, said on the social media page that the heart of the issue is: “Three school board members believe that government knows how best to raise your child.”

She said the issue began on Nov. 11, 2018, when the issue of transgender students using school bathrooms came up.

More recently, the district put on hold the use of Black Lives Matter teacher training materials they objected to.

And there’s the issue of students being forced to wear masks in schools, with or without adequate mask breaks.

Attempts to contact the group’s organizers were unsuccessful Tuesday.

The petition quotes Brown as saying, “Parents do not have the encompassing right to raise their child.”

Brown said her comment about parent’s rights was taken out of context. She said she was speaking during a discussion about schools being a required reporter for child endangerment situations.


“If staff feels a child is being endangered, we are a required reporter. We must report that. So there was a lot of push back on that,” Brown said. “I think it’s more political.”

She recalls at least five speakers at a recent board meeting wore Women For Trump facial masks to voice displeasure with the board’s decisions.

“I fully support the masks,” Brown said. “They said I should have listened to them first, (but) we’re getting tons of emails (urging schools) to keep the mask.”

Brown also noted the teacher training about Black Lives Matter has been “put on hold.”

“If any teacher wants to use them in class or in the student’s home, they have to get the principal’s permission to get a PIN number to unlock it,” she said. “It’s already been restricted … the access. Teachers have to get permission and I think that means they have to send notice to parents who can opt to pull their kids from the class.”

As for the petition comments, Brown said she’s “trying not to respond.”

“They are welcome to do that, but I don’t think the governor is going to pay any attention to it,” she said. “There is no reason to … It’s just a way to harass me. I think they blame me for Eric (Robinson) losing.”

Robinson, who has opposed Brown on many school board issues, was surprised by political newcomer Tom Edwards who unseated Robinson on Aug. 18.

On Tuesday, 1,032 signatures had been gathered on the site, which states 1,468 are still needed, which could be a used to gauge whether a formal recall effort has support.

The formal process requires a Statement of Defense, certification, and a second set of additional signatures within a tight timeline.

“The good taxpayers of Sarasota County are fed up with the wanton disregard of the parents’ will and input to the Sarasota County School Board,” states a sample letter to the governor. “While board members Caroline Zucker, Shirley Brown, and Jane Goodwin have a long history of ignoring the will of the people, we the people are prepared to demonstrate specific evidence as it relates to Ms. Shirley Brown.”

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