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Calling Punishments ‘Draconian’ For Students Breaking COVID-19 Rules, DeSantis Teases ‘College Bill of Rights’

Virus Outbreak Florida Colleges
Wilfredo Lee/AP
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AP
FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2020, file photo, a pedestrian walks past a sign stating that masks, used to prevent the spread of COVID-19, are required to be worn on campus, by an entrance to the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. As more and more schools and businesses around the country get the OK to reopen, some college towns are moving in the opposite direction because of too much partying and too many COVID-19 infections among students. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

After some universities in the state have threatened punishment for not following COVID-19 guidelines, Governor Ron DeSantis says he’s mulling protections for college students.

Earlier this month, Florida State University President John Thrasher announced students who host or attend large parties are subject to suspension.

Some of the threatened suspensions for not isolating after a positive coronavirus test could be lengthy.

Thrasher wrote in an open letter: “any student who tests positive and is ordered to isolate: Socializing outside of your residence, working out at the Leach Center or engaging in activities such as going to parties may result in your suspension from Florida State University for a minimum of one academic semester.”

DeSantis calls punishments for students who may be asymptomatic, “draconian.”

“We’re looking at perhaps, if there’s something we can do at the state level to provide some type of bill of rights for students. And I understand the universities, they’re trying to do the right thing,” DeSantis said at a media event Thursday. “But I personally think it’s incredibly draconian that a student would get potentially expelled for going to a party.

“That’s what college kids do. And they’re low-risk. I think we’ve got to be reasonable about this, and focus the efforts on where the most significant risk is.”

In recent weeks, the college-age demographic has been a driver of new COVID-19 infections in Leon County.

DeSantis says he thinks it’s “very important” to have in-person instruction at the college level, from an academic and social standpoint.

The governor didn’t get specific as to whether a “bill of rights” for college students is being drafted, or is currently in the works in any way.

DeSantis did indicate he wants universities to change their policy on mandating isolation for asymptomatic students who would be at lower risk for spreading COVID-19.

“If you’re at risk of infecting people, you need to stay home – I’m 100 percent supportive of that. But … I mean, if someone tests positive and it’s dead virus from two months ago, and they have zero percent chance of infecting anybody, just keep them in a dorm room or wherever for two weeks? I think that’s a problem,” DeSantis said.

Universities, including FSU and University of Florida, have set up “quarantine dorms” for students who wish to isolate there.