Science Teacher John Alvarez Fired for Repeated Refusal to Wear Face Mask

A Broward County, Florida, teacher was fired Tuesday for "gross insubordination" after constant refusals to wear a mask.

John Alvarez was a science teacher at Piper High School in Sunrise, Florida. The vote to fire him by the School Board of Broward County on Tuesday was unanimous.

Though Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' administration has banned school mask mandates, the school board had one in place anyway due to a large number of COVID-19 cases in the area.

According to a Mayo Clinic COVID-19 map, Broward is one of the Florida counties more strongly affected by the virus, with about 235 of the state's 2,070 average daily cases coming from the area.

However, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that after a series of legal disputes, the school board had to drop its mask mandate last month. But while the state does not allow schools to punish students for not wearing masks, there are no such laws about school employees.

Alvarez was fired for not following his supervisors' repeated orders to wear a mask. Piper High School administrators told the Sun Sentinel they first noticed Alvarez not wearing a mask during a fire drill in March.

This continued into the following school year in August, when the school recommended a suspension of five days. However, the suspension hearing kept getting pushed back due to Alvarez's refusal to wear a mask at the hearing. Rosalind Osgood, a school board member, told the local paper Alvarez "kind of ripped up the mask" when given one at the hearing.

Osgood added that he refused to come back to the proceedings and said that "he was never going to comply."

high school, science room
A Florida high school science teacher was fired for insubordination Tuesday after refusing to wear a mask at school. Above, a science classroom. Stock Image/Getty Images

Alvarez plans to appeal the decision to an administrative law judge, according to the Sun Sentinel.

The DeSantis' administration prohibition of student mask mandates has led to months of bitter legal disputes with Broward and other counties. DeSantis' orders, which were codified into law by state lawmakers last month, do not apply to employees, only students.

Alvarez repeatedly refused to follow orders from his supervisors to wear a mask and he was fired for insubordination, even though the district no longer requires anyone to wear masks on school campuses, according to the school district.

"The fact that this is related to a mask and all the baggage that issue comes with is really not relevant to the complaint at hand, which is that there was gross insubordination by this employee to a directive by a supervisor," said Marylin Batista, the school board's interim general counsel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.