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Leon County parents face roadblock in search of medical opt-out signatures

Posted at 10:21 PM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 22:21:01-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — "The data is very clear to me from the CDC and the World Health Organization that masks save lives despite what our governor says."

Immediate Past President of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics says most physicians are likely not signing many medical opt-out forms.

Those forms are required for any Leon County student in kindergarten through eighth grade to learn without a mask.

"It would actually be the absolute wrong thing to do to stop masks for someone with say asthma or cystic fibrosis because if they get COVID, it could increases their risk of dying," said Dr. Robinson.

Parents have until 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 27 to submit an opt-out form to their child's school. That form must have the doctor's stamp, seal, or official letterhead. Many parents say they can't find a doctor willing to do just that.

"My daughter has a legitimate reason to not wear a mask. Her pediatrician at a recent doctor's visit admitted this need but still refused to sign the opt-out form because I assume politics," said Ashley Benton.

Benton took her frustrations to Leon County's School Board meeting Tuesday night, searching for leniency in the mandate. The board ultimately decide to follow its course, keeping the mandate as is.

Dr. Robinson said parents should have these conversations with their pediatrician.

"I've had a couple of parents contact me and I've explained my stance and they've understood and accepted it," he said.

Dr. Robinson added that the key right now is trust.

"Parents know their kids best, but they maybe don't know the disease process as well as their physicians do," he said.

The local pediatrician said most doctors still support masks in the classroom, even if the child has a medical condition. He says it's because masks are important to stop the spread of COVID, especially for children more at risk of falling ill from the disease.

"I think a child with level three autism spectrum disorder, which would be the most severe form of autism spectrum disorder. Those children won't be able to handle a mask but most children with autism spectrum disorder, with the proper training would be able to do it most of the time," said Dr. Robinson.

Benton told the Board the mandate goes beyond physical requirements.

"I'm not only looking at their medical needs but also their emotional, social well-being," she said.

Now many parents are desperately searching for any doctor willing to sign the form. Something Dr. Robinson said isn't likely to happen.

"I do not think they consider it legal for doctors to write notes for children that they don't even have a therapeutic relationship with," he added.

You can find the link to the form here.