The Leon County School District is the seventh in Florida to impose a mask warrant on schoolchildren, with few exceptions only with documented medical evidence that it would harm students, in defiance of the policy set by Governor Ron DeSantis.
Superintendent Rocky Hanna made the announcement Sunday in a live video posted to the district’s Facebook page. The new policy applies to kindergarten through eighth grade, or children too young to qualify for vaccinations, and comes into effect on Monday, he said.
He said he made the decision on his own initiative, without involving the school board. This could protect its members from the punishment the state school board controlled by Governor Ron DeSantis inflicted on Alachua and Broward County when their councils voted to take the same measure – withholding money from schools. public funds in an amount equal to the paychecks of civil servants.
DeSantis says school boards taking this step – including Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Sarasota – are violating an emergency regulation from the state Department of Health and a state law called the Declaration Parents’ Rights, which gives parents control over medical decisions for their children.
Hanna recognized the potential consequences for himself.
“Governor, I have an obligation to uphold the laws of the State of Florida. However, I have a greater obligation to protect the health, safety and well-being of the children of Tallahassee and Leon County, ”said Hanna.
“Look, I don’t think masks are necessarily the end of everything. But we know they make a difference. The vast majority of health care experts tell us they are making a difference, ”he said.
“I am totally in favor of individual rights and freedoms and the rights of parents. However, I firmly believe that my rights end when they infringe the rights of others, ”he continued. “Your rights end when that child’s rights are violated. “
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal indoor masking for all students ages 2 and older, staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of their immunization status , mainly to protect others from a person who may unknowingly be infected and contagious. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends masking in schools.
According to Hanna, in the first seven days of schooling last week, the district counted more than 245 positive cases, representing one-third of the total cases last year. From Tuesday to Friday, he recorded average daily positive tests in the mid-1940s. Last year, the one-day high was 19. As of Friday, more than 900 students were in quarantine.
“The numbers speak for themselves. It’s time to make a change,” Hanna said.
“The goal is to keep our schools open. However, if we continue down this path, I’m afraid we will have to consider other options, and the last thing I want to do is close our schools.
To Governor DeSantis, Hanna said, “I ask you, Governor, to reconsider your position on this issue and return local control to school districts to do what is best for the children in our community.”
He added: “Leaders should never let pride or politics cloud their better judgment. It’s never too late to do it right. “