Amid the debate over mask mandates in schools, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) took steps last week to make sure parents have the authority to make decisions related to their children.
In a Friday press release, the office of Governor Ron DeSantis stated that “the Florida Department of Health and State Board of Education issued Emergency Rules to protect parents’ freedom to choose what is best for their children. These rules are pursuant to Executive Order 21-175 and encourage a practical and effective in-person learning environment for Florida’s school children during the upcoming school year, while preventing the unnecessary removal of healthy students from school and safeguarding the rights of parents and their children.”
“When the wellbeing of our students and our constitutional freedoms are at stake, we will stand up for Florida families,” said DeSantis. “Giving parents options to make these decisions is not controversial. I’m proud that today we took action to make sure school administrators respect parents’ rights to make educational and healthcare decisions for their families. I will continue to fight to protect Florida’s families from government overreach and to preserve their God-given rights.”
The Florida Department of Health published an emergency rule to govern the control of COVID-19 in schools through protocols that do not violate Floridians’ constitutional freedoms. The rule directs that any COVID-19 mitigation actions taken by school districts ensures that parents’ right to make decisions regarding the masking of their children is protected. The rule was issued in recognition of the importance of in-person learning to educational, social, emotional and mental wellbeing.
The State Board of Education passed two emergency rules that clarify the eligibility of the Hope Scholarship and provide school districts with flexibilities to ensure the educational continuity of students. The clarification of the Hope Scholarship Program ensures parents know they can transfer their public school student to a private school or to another district in the state if the student has been subjected to harassment due to personal health care choices a family has a right to make for their minor child.
In addition, school districts are incentivized to ensure a student remains engaged in educational activities while under quarantine for attendance purposes. Quarantine procedures should be surgical and not sweeping “because they unquestionably result in student learning loss.”
“From the beginning of the pandemic, Governor DeSantis has been crystal clear that we need to put the welfare of our children – especially our most vulnerable children – at the forefront of our efforts, while empowering parents by putting them in the driver’s seat to make educational and health care decisions for their family,” said Commissioner Corcoran. “These rules help accomplish just that: Protect families’ privacy over health-related decisions and protect students from retribution for those decisions.”
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Steve Stewart is the Managing Editor and a contributor at The Florida Capital Star. Email tips to [email protected]