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Leon Waters Down, Doubles-Down On Mandatory Mask Policy After Corcoran Threat

Ryan Dailey
WFSU Public Media

Corcoran wrote a similar letter to Alachua County Schools, informing both districts that they are in violation of Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order. The Commissioner's letter to the districts comes a day after Hanna said students will have to wear face masks for the first month of school.

“Depending on the facts presented, I may recommend to the State Board of Education that the department withhold funds in an amount equal to the salaries for the superintendent and all the members of the school board,” Corcoran wrote to the district's informing Leon that it has until Wednesday at 5 p.m. to respond. Alachua had until 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The Leon School Board decided to amend its mandatory mask policy in response to Corcoran. Families can now opt out of the district’s mask order with a parent’s signature. That’s a change from the previous policy which would have required a physician to sign off. Corcoran, in his letter, told the district's that
“The [State Board of Education's] emergency rule does not require parents to submit medical documentation from a physician or a nurse practitioner in order to opt out, and any such requirement is inconsistent with the emergency rule."

Even as it amended its mandatory mask policy, Leon's school board has now also extended it to all grade levels. Previously, the policy applied to Pre-K through 8th grade.

Hanna says he’s willing to accept the consequences of his decision, whatever they may be. Fellow school board member Roseanne Wood acknowledges those consequences could be high.

“If you consult with our attorneys…tomorrow…and feel that you may be in jeopardy of being removed from office—I do not want that. I want you to stay as the leader of this district. I think that’s a heavy thing to weigh," said Wood, who attended the meeting remotely due to contracting COVID-19 at a previous board meeting.

The district says it will respond to Corcoran’s letter, informing the commissioner that Leon will keep its mandatory mask policy in place. No students will be turned away from school for not wearing masks.

DeSantis, the state board of education and Corcoran have all threatened to withhold funding to district's and administrators that defy the governor. Tuesday, the Senate Democratic caucus announced it would launch a go-fund-me to fill the gap for district’s that defy DeSantis mandatory mask ban.

Later this week, two judges are slated to hear arguments Friday in two lawsuits challenging the governor’s orders.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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