TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Editor's note: The above video is from a previous story.
Days before the new school year begins, the Florida Department of Education adopted an emergency rule that allows parents to transfer their kids out of school if they face "COVID-19 harassment," such as being required to wear masks.
During a meeting Friday, the FLDOE considered a proposal that would allow families to use Hope Scholarship vouchers to transfer their kids out of schools that place rules on mask-wearing or other coronavirus policies that cause a child to experience harassment.
The meeting discussed two emergency rules, one regarding student attendance and the other regarding transfer procedures outlined by the Hope Scholarship.
The board passed the first rule, which allows students to be credited with attendance if they are attending school outside of the classroom, such as from a result of quarantine. The credit would be given for attendance provided the child has the adequate tools they need in order to continue learning.
The second rule, pertaining to the Hope Scholarship transfer procedure, was also passed by the board.
This allows parents to take their children out of public school and place them in another school, including either a private school or a school in a different district. Parents are allowed to do this if their child is being "harassed" by or faces "discrimination" from the school's COVID-19 policies, which includes face mask mandates.
The Hope Scholarship in Florida allows K-12 students who have been "bullied, harassed, assaulted, or threatened" to transfer to another public school or enroll in an "approved private school."
According to a memo announcing the meeting, the emergency rules will "provide additional flexibility in light of health protocols issued by the Department of Health and implemented by school districts when school begins as soon as next week."
The memo reads, in part that parents would have "a mechanism to transfer a child to a private school or another school district under a Hope Scholarship when a school district’s COVID-19 health protocols, including masking, pose a health or educational danger to their child.
"The agency finds that the potential for student learning loss and educational disruption with schools starting next week, creates an immediate danger to the public health, safety and welfare of students and requires emergency action," the memo continued.
Despite an executive order signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis preventing schools from making such policies, several school districts in Florida have defied the order, risking the potential of losing school funding.
So far, no Tampa Bay-area school districts are requiring masks for students.
DeSantis signed the order just as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations began surging in the state. When he signed it, he said he would work to protect Floridians' right to work and the rights of kids to attend school in person.
However, several area attorneys plan to sue DeSantis over his mask-banning executive order. According to a draft of the lawsuit, the governor's ban violates the Florida Constitution, which grants decision-making power to local school boards.
According to the latest report from the Florida Department of Health, children account for roughly one in five new COVID-19 cases in Florida.
There were 21,881 new COVID cases in the age range 0-19 in the report. The state provides data for the age range 0-12 and then ages 12-19. Due to the lack of details in the age range, the age demographic can't be determined.
This time last year, the state was looking at roughly 4,900 new cases in the age range of 0-17.