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BOE: Leon County Schools still out of compliance of DOH rules, pay to be withheld

LCS masks
Posted at 10:23 AM, Oct 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-17 04:44:19-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — UPDATE: Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent a response letter to Leon County Schools Friday in regards to their modified COVID-19 safety policies, saying that the district is still out of compliance and salaries would begin being withheld.

The part of LCS's modified policies that are out of compliance has to do with the part that does not apply to when an asymptomatic student returns to school during the seven-day quarantine period.

"During this period, your policy states that a student must wear a mask while indoors, 'regardless of medical or parental opt-out,'" wrote Corcoran of the out of compliance portion of the policy.

The full letter can be read below.

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Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna has sent a response to Commissioner Corcoran and the Florida State Board of Education regarding whether or not Leon County Schools is in violation of the state mask policy.

On Oct. 7, the Florida Board of Education ruled that eight public school districts, including Leon County, violated state policy by "mandating face masks for students without the ability to opt-out."

The penalty for the violation was fines that would equal about 1/12 of each school board salaries for the next 12 months.

However, as of the Oct. 12 school board meeting, Leon County Schools removed the medical requirement for mask opt-out.

In Hanna's response to the state board, he mentions this change, arguing that they are now in compliance with part of Florida Department Health Emergency Rule 64DER21-15.

"However, if an unvaccinated student has been exposed to a COVID positive case, parents have the choice of keeping the student home seven (7) calendar days from the date of first exposure, or if they are asymptomatic the student may come back to school masked while indoors for the seven (7) calendar days," Hanna's response stated.

This could be in violation as the order for the Surgeon General states that "schools shall allow parents or legal guardians the authority to choose how their child receives education after having direct contact with an individual that is positive for COVID-19."

Hanna also stated, "If you believe Leon County Schools is not in compliance with Emergency Rule 64DER21-15, please inform us of such and we will provide you the annual salaries of the members of the Leon County School Board."

With fines now expected to be paid, the district's last option is a pending case against the state.

"It's disappointing that the department of health, the governor and the department of education have had a heavy hand in this whole thing and decided that one size fits throughout the state of florida and it just doesn't," Hanna said in an interview with ABC27.

Leon County School district, along with 7 other district, filed a petition against the state's covid rule.

Hanna said the case is about home rule authority. This means local governments have the right to make a decision on what they think is best for their communities.

"Parental rights, yes we agree, but where do the rights of parents end and the rights of school districts and school boards and school administrators begin to protect than all the children in the school," Hanna said in an interview with ABC27.

If the DOAH rules in favor of the district's they could receive their salaries back.
Right now, each school board member must give 1/12 of their salary every month for the next year.
This doesn't affect Hanna because he's an elected superintendent, but he said he won't be paid if the board members aren't.

"I'm sad that it's come to this quite honestly but you can never put a price tag on a child's life," Hanna said.

The DOAH hearing for Leon County Schools legal complaint starts next Thursday.

This is a developing story.