TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, 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 schoolchildren during the upcoming school year, while preventing the unnecessary removal of healthy students from school and safeguarding the rights of parents and their children.
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; do not violate parents’ rights under Florida law to make health care decisions for their minor children; and protect children with disabilities or health conditions who would be harmed by certain protocols, such as face masking requirements. The rule directs that any COVID-19 mitigation actions taken by school districts comply with the Parents’ Bill of Rights, and ensures that parents’ right to make decisions regarding the masking of their children is protected. The rule was issued in recognition that because of the importance of in-person learning to educational, social, emotional and mental wellbeing, removing healthy students from the classroom should be limited at all costs.
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.
“When the wellbeing of our students and our constitutional freedoms are at stake, we will stand up for Florida families,” said Governor Ron 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 Governor is committed to protecting the rights of parents to make the best decisions for the wellbeing of their children,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “To that end, the Florida Hope Scholarship Program that provides funding for a public-school student to transfer to another public or private school in the unfortunate situation where a student has been subjected to bullying, harassment, or intimidating treatment at school, is in line with parental choice. I commend the State Board of Education for providing clear instruction that a student will be eligible for a Hope Scholarship if COVID-19 related harassment occurs – a proactive step to ensure clarity in our shared commitment to protect the rights of students and families.”
“The health and wellbeing of our students and educators is of incredible importance, and this rule outlines safety protocols that will allow our children to remain in the school setting,” said Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees. “Our integrated public health system will continue working closely with the Department of Education and school districts statewide to foster a healthy and productive learning environment for all children in Florida.”
“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.”
“I very much appreciate the vision and steadfast leadership of Governor DeSantis throughout this pandemic,” said State Board Chair Tom Grady. “Time and time again, he has made strategic and well-informed decisions to ensure our students continue to receive a world-class education based on data and facts – not fear. We are truly lucky and fortunate to have such a principled Governor leading Florida.”
Emergency Rule 6AER21-01 provides school districts with additional flexibilities to ensure the educational continuity of students by incentivizing districts 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. The rule provides districts with “peace of mind” in regards to attendance and funding requirements that allow districts to focus on proven and effective COVID-19 mitigation strategies such as keeping sick students home while providing students with a world-class education.
Emergency Rule 6AER21-02 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.
Emergency Rule 64DER21-12 prevents the unnecessary exclusion of students from in-person schooling; safeguards the rights of parents and their children; provides health protocols for symptomatic or COVID-19 positive students; protocols for students who have had direct contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19; and updates protocols for students who have had prior COVID-19 infections. The rule also requires informed written consent from parents to allow testing of minors in schools.