A school district in Tallahassee announced on Sunday in a video on Facebook that it will require masks for students from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade starting Monday in defiance of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order.
“Governor, I do have an obligation to uphold the laws of the state of Florida,” Leon County Schools superintendent Rocky Hanna said in the video. “I have a greater obligation, however, to protect for the health, safety and welfare of the children in Tallahassee and Leon County.”
Hanna’s decision comes days after Florida’s Board of Education warned two other school districts that they could lose funding if they do not abide by DeSantis’ orders, according to The Hill.
Hanna said he wrote to DeSantis’ office earlier this month to request more “flexibility” in the governor’s order, which makes masks optional.
Hanna explained that he wanted everyone to wear masks becasuse children were contracting the highly contagious Delta variant at an increasing rate, especially those pupils who were too young to be eligible for the vaccination.
But Hanna said he never received a response from the governor’s office and therefore announced two days before the beginning of the school year that the district would require masks with a medical exemption option.
But Hanna said he and the board then decided to open school with a K-12 mask policy that included the medical exemption but also an “individual freedoms opt-out for parents who claimed the wearing of masks were an infringement of their parental rights” after he “received a very harsh and threatening letter” from Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran saying that if the district enacted its original decision, Hanna and “members of the Leon County school board would be held in violation and face the maximum penalties under the law,” The Hill reported.
Hanna said, however, that the district ending up deciding to defy DeSantis on Sunday after registering more than 245 positive cases in the one week students have been in school, which he said was nearly a “third of the total we had from all of last year.”
Hanna asked DeSantis to reverse his position on masks in schools and to “give local control back to school districts to do what’s best for the children in our community.”
The superintendent stressed that “I am in total favor of individual rights and freedoms and the rights of parents; however, I strongly believe that my rights end when they infringe on the rights of others.”
He emphasized that “It has also been well documented by the vast majority of health care experts that these masks not only protect the person wearing the mask; more importantly, they protect the child beside them, and to me, your rights end when that child’s rights are infringed on.”