A judge within the Florida Department of Administrative hearings ruled that the Florida Department of Health (DOH) has the authority to make the rules for public school students regarding quarantines and mask mandates.
“The COVID-19 protocols adopted pursuant to section 1003.22(3) should be no more restrictive than necessary to keep children safe and learning in school,” wrote Deputy Chief Judge Brian Newman. “The fact that the Emergency Rule achieves this result — and at the same time involves parents in decisions involving their child’s health and education — does not run counter to the broad rulemaking directive.”
The decision came after six Florida school districts sued the (DOH) for crafting its rules saying students would no longer be required to quarantine if exposed to COVID and remained asymptomatic. Also, mask mandates would be banned under the DOH’s rule. Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo echoed much of what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said throughout the pandemic, that parents have the right to determine masking and quarantining options for their children.
“In Florida, we’re going to stay close to the data,” Ladapo said last month. “And the data do not support any clinical benefit for children in schools with mask mandates. The highest quality data find no evidence of benefit, and we’re going to stick with that because that’s what the data show.”
The school districts who sued said the DOH overstepped its rulemaking authority when the rule was adopted.
“The DOH rule runs counter to the express legislative intent that schools remain open safely and in accordance with, among other things, federal health agency guidelines,” the suit said.
The judge ruled based on data and said that while students can get sick and die from COVID, the statistics show the chances are next to none.
“Children have died from COVID-19, but that outcome is extremely rare,” the ruling said. “The COVID-19 Situation Report case fatality rate for people under 16, and for people aged 16 to 29, is 0.0%. This data was submitted jointly by Petitioners and Respondent and its accuracy was not questioned. Experts called by both sides support the obvious conclusion to be drawn from this data.”
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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.