PUNTA GORDA, Fla.–The Florida Department of Education (DOE) in an emergency meeting on Friday unanimously passed two orders to prop up the state’s recently enacted Bill of Parental Rights.
The first order provides a mechanism to transfer a child to a private school or another school district under a scholarship when a student is subjected to harassment tied to a school district’s COVID-19 mitigation protocols. The scholarships in question, called Hope Scholarships, are funded mostly by new car sales with eligible sales tax contributions.
The second order allows students to be credited with attendance if they are attending school outside of the classroom such as during quarantine. The credit would be given for attendance provided the child has the adequate tools they need in order to continue learning.
Before the department’s board voted, DOE Vice-Chair Ben Gibson said that the intent of the rules they were trying to pass was make sure districts follow the law.
“We don’t want to hurt kids,” Gibson said in the meeting. “Both the Department of Health and the DOE rules work together to prop up the governor’s executive order and parental choice. This is another tool in our toolbox to ensure school districts follow the law.”
Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis weighed in on the board’s decision through a written statement.
“I commend the State Board of Education for providing clear instruction that a student will be eligible for a Hope Scholarship if COVID-19 related harassment occurs—a proactive step to ensure clarity in our shared commitment to protect the rights of students and families.”
The same day, the Florida Department of Health passed a rule (pdf) requiring a number of COVID-19 safeguards for Florida schools, including frequent cleaning of classrooms and hand-washing for students. Alongside protocols for students who have caught the virus and those who have been exposed to it, the rule requires schools to allow parents to opt children out of having to wear a mask.