by PAT RAIA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Parents will decide whether or not to quarantine their school children under a new rule unveiled by the Florida Department of Health (DOH).
Issued by newly appointed Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, Emergency Rule 64DER21-15 prevents the “unnecessary exclusion of healthy students from in-person schooling.”
It also establishes health protocols for symptomatic or COVID-19 positive students and allows parents and legal guardians to choose which protocols to implement when their student has had direct contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
According to Gov. Ron DeSantis, the rule was issued in response to parents’ concerns about conflicts between school-mandated quarantines and Florida’s parents’ bill of rights.
“As much play as the parents rights has gotten, one of the things that parents have been most concerned about has been policies that would quarantine dozens and dozens of healthy students if there was one positive test in a particular classroom,” DeSantis said during a Sept. 22 press conference in Kissimmee. “We are going to be following a symptoms-based approach.”
Under the rule, parents would be notified if a student in their child’s classroom tests positive for COVID-19, but they would determine to either send their asymptomatic child to school or quarantine their student at home.
“Quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging for their educational advancement,” DeSantis said. “It’s also incredibly disruptive for families throughout the state of Florida, and I think this (new rule) is something that is going to make things better for so many folks, and I think this has been long overdue.”
In response, US Representative Charlie Crist (D- FL District 13) who is running to be the State’s next chief executive labeled the rule dangerous to students and others.
“It’s a completely reckless decision by Governor Ron DeSantis and his new surgeon general to allow COVID exposed students back into the classroom. Period,” Crist said in a Sept. 24 social media posting “Gov. DeSantis and his new surgeon general care more about scoring partisan points than they do about the fact that they are endangering vulnerable children, their families, our teachers, and frankly our entire economy.”
The new rule became effective on Sept. 22.