NewsLocal News


Leon County joins petition challenging state COVID safety protocols in schools

Posted at 4:59 PM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-07 01:53:08-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Leon County Schools and Rocky Hanna have joined five other Florida counties in a petition to challenge the Florida Department of Health's mask mandate rule that came down in September.

The emergency ruling said in part that Florida students who are exposed to COVID-19 won't have to quarantine from school if they're not showing symptoms of the virus.

Lawyers representing the six school districts say that the Department of Health's latest emergency order does nothing to prevent communicable disease.

The order requires districts to allow parents to opt-out of both mask-wearing and quarantining, parental rights Attorney Jamie Cole says DOH has no authority to either give or take away.

"It's not their job to issue rules as to anything outside of controlling communicable diseases," said Cole.

Additionally, he added, the requirements outlined in the order could actually prove to work against their intended goal.

"A rule that says parents have to have the sole discretion to opt their kids out of a mask mandate does not control COVID," said Cole. "If anything, it results in less children wearing masks, which will result in more spread of COVID."

The other counties in the petition are the school boards of Miami-Dade County, Duval County, Orange County, Broward County and Alachua County.

The 328-page document is summed up on page two of the petition, which breaks down the sides of the six school districts and Rocky Hanna.

"The DOH Rule challenged in this Petition is actually focused not on controlling COVID-19 but rather, on protecting parental rights," the document reads. "The DOH does not have rulemaking authority in this area, and thus exceeded its rulemaking authority."

Gov. DeSantis' office has said in the past that government overreach comes from the schools, not his office.

Shortly after DOH issued the new order at the instruction of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna said "This is a blatant abuse of executive power."

The petition, which was filed this afternoon, also calls the latest DOH changes "an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority."

The division of administrative hearings is required to assign an administrative law judge to respond to the petition within seven days. A hearing is then required within 14 days.

The full petition can be read below.