Florida’s school mask battle refocuses on health department rule

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Scott Rivkees talks to the media during a news conference at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on May 6, 2020.
Scott Rivkees talks to the media during a news conference at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on May 6, 2020. [ DAVID SANTIAGO | Miami Herald ]
Published Sep. 17, 2021

With Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban on strict school mask mandates remaining in play after two court rulings, attention turns to the Department of Health rule that underlies the action. The question of whether that emergency rule was implemented appropriately is next up for review. The Division of Administrative Hearings will take up that issue starting next week. Read on for the latest on that story and more Florida education news.

Several Florida school districts have challenged the validity of the emergency rule, and asked that surgeon general Scott Rivkees explain it under oath. The state asked Judge Brian Newman to prevent Rivkees from testifying during the administrative hearing, the News Service of Florida reports. The judge agreed.

More coronavirus concerns

About a dozen districts require a doctor’s note to opt out of mask wearing, against the health department’s rule. Those districts have rejected some of the medical exemption forms amid questions about the person signing them, WPTV reports.

A conservative group told the Brevard County School Board it plans to sue the district over its mask requirements. The group was collecting money to pay for the court costs, Florida Today reports.

Schools are beginning to see a decrease in COVID cases. Even with a decline, the rates in Brevard County remain higher than last year at this time, Florida Today reports. • Citrus County schools have seen a downward trend since Aug. 25, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

Some positive results remain, though, leading to quarantines. Palm Beach County’s superintendent has suggested offering daily virus testing for students who have been exposed, as a way to stay in classes, WPEC reports.

Meanwhile, Florida remains a holdout in requesting billions in federal pandemic relief funds. State officials have yet to explain why they aren’t applying, Florida Phoenix reports.

Other school news

Don’t know much about history. Some students at a Broward County private school confused a 9/11 tribute for an anti-Black Lives Matter display, and trashed it, WPLG reports. “An important teaching moment is upon us,” the principal said afterward.

Florida lawmakers banned transgender girls from participating in high school sports during the 2021 session. Democrats who opposed the measure have filed legislation to undo it, Florida Politics reports.

Some students need added help catching up in class. The Alachua County school district has launched an after-school online program to help, WCJB reports.

The St. Johns County School Board is redrawing member districts. The new zones will reflect a 43 percent population increase in the past decade, WJXT reports.

The Flagler County school district is seeking an impact fee increase. County government officials were hostile to the idea, Flagler Live reports.

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Just keep walking. Some St. Johns parents petitioned the state to deem their children’s path to school hazardous, so they could get bus rides. The state rejected their request, the St. Augustine Record reports.

Don’t even think about it. Clay County school district police warn students not to participate in the TikTok “devious licks” challenge, WJXT reports.

From the police blotter ... Several students were arrested after a brawl at a Seminole County middle school, WOFL reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... ABBA is back. They still sound the same. Enjoy the new single.

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