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Florida Board of Education decides to withhold salaries, state funds for Leon County Schools

LCS has two days to comply with the emergency rule in order to avoid the sanctions.
Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 2:24 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2021 at 2:43 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Florida Board of Education has decided to issue sanctions against the Leon County School District for violating the state’s COVID-19 emergency rules.

As part of the sanctions, Leon County School Board members’ salaries will be withheld monthly until the district complies with the Department of Health rule.

During a board meeting Thursday afternoon, education officials unanimously determined the district was not in compliance with state directives aimed at preventing student mask requirements during the 2021-22 school year.

LCS has two days to show compliance with the emergency rule in order to avoid the sanctions.

Under LCS’ policy, students can only opt-out of the mask mandate for pre-K through eighth grade if they provide medical documents excusing them. The state’s emergency rule issued on Sept. 22 says parents or guardians have “sole discretion” in deciding whether their student can opt-out of mask mandates.

“By the end of the first week and a half of school, it became evident that to keep our students safe and our schools open, we had to make a change,” LCS Superintendent Rocky Hanna said during Thursday’s meeting. “Today, the Leon County School Board and I are respectfully asking you to let us and individual school districts make decisions in the best interests of our local schools.”

That emergency rule also allows students who have had close contact with coronavirus to return to the classroom without quarantining, so long as they are asymptomatic. LCS also allows asymptomatic students who had close contact with COVID-19 to immediately return to the classroom; however, they are required to wear a mask during what would’ve been the quarantine period.

During the meeting, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said “districts can’t pick and choose which parts of the law they want to follow.”

Hannah told the board his salary should be taken along with the other school board officials, pointing out his position is elected. The board shot that proposal down.

LCS was one of eight school districts the Board of Education discussed. The board considered probable cause for each district on whether they failed to follow DOH’s emergency rule on protocols for controlling COIVD-19 in school settings.

The other school districts included Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Miami-Dade, Orange, and Palm Beach counties. The board unanimously found all of the districts to be noncompliant.

Hanna said on Sept. 27 he hopes masks will be 100% optional for LCS students by the end of October. That will only happen if a downward trend in COVID cases continues, according to Hanna.

You can view the probable cause memo the board sent to LCS at this link or below.

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