LEON COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) — The Leon County School Board took extra steps Thursday to strengthen their defense against the Florida Commissioner of Education.
The board voted unanimously on Thursday morning to agree to allow Superintendent Rocky Hanna up to $50,000 to hire a law firm in their defense against the Commissioner of Education.
The firm is Weiss Serota Helfmam Cole & Bierman, PL, a south Florida law firm also representing Miami Dade School District in a similar legal battle.
The board felt hiring the firm was about more than just being able to uphold their decision to temporarily require masks or potentially losing their salaries, but rather not losing their power to make decisions they feel are best for our community.
"If the Governor and other state agencies are able to just pretty much force you to do whatever they say and penalize you personally for doing it or kick you out of the office for the way you vote, it really goes to the heart of our democracy," Jamie Cole, a lawyer at Weiss Serota Helfmam Cole & Bierman, PL, said. "This issue really goes into the heart of what you do and it's going to have ramifications into the future as to how you operate."
This meeting comes after Superintendent Hanna sent a letter to the Commissioner of Education asking for him to understand why they required masks for aged Pre-K through 8 with a medical opt-out.
"We're all for parental rights," Hanna said. "I'm in support of parental rights, but another component of this issue as well. If you believe the vast majority of the health care experts and the people in the science side of this that this mask not only protects yourself, but it protects the people around you and that's when your rights affect others' rights."
In the letter, Hanna cites the alarming rates of COVID-19 in the school district.
In the past three weeks, 532 students have tested positive for COVID-19, which is compared to the 815 positive tests for the entire 2020-2021 school year.
Cole said he believes Leon County has a stronger case than other school districts because we started the school year in compliance with the Governor's executive order.
"We had the unfortunate death of a child. There were a lot of mitigating circumstances that led us to make the move to temporarily require masks for kids K-8," Hanna said.
Legal action from this law firm will only be taken pending the response from the Commissioner of Education on Hanna's letter.
The next school board meeting will be held on Sept. 7, where Hanna anticipates having a response from the Commissioner of Education by then.