Leon Schools Superintendent set to face mask questions at Tiger Bay luncheon
Rocky Hanna

Leon County Schools backed out of the multi-district fight against DeSantis' mask mandate ban earlier this month.

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna could face questions about his district’s decision to stop fighting against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ mask mandate ban during Wednesday’s Capital Tiger Bay Club luncheon.

The club is invite-only and holds events to provide a nonpartisan forum on current political issues. It invited Hanna as this month’s luncheon guest speaker.

There is no set topic for Hanna’s speech, said Tiger Bay President Christina Johnson. However, she said she knows he will touch on the masking debate and Tiger Bay members will bring up masks during the event’s Q&A session.

Hanna’s district previously joined Alachua, Broward, Duval, Miami-Dade and Orange counties in suing the Department of Health over a DeSantis executive order which barred mask mandates. A judge ruled against the districts and in favor of the mask mandate ban earlier this month.

Five of the districts, including Leon, filed to appeal the decision to the 4th District Court of Appeal on Nov. 5. Hanna reversed the district’s decision to appeal four days later.

He announced the change in a statement on the district’s Twitter account, but did not provide specific reasons for the decision.

“While we continue to believe in our right to make decisions that are overwhelmingly supported by our community, we no longer believe it is prudent for us to peruse a short term legal remedy to determine where the line is drawn between state rights and the rights of our local school system,” his statement read. “We will continue to look for other avenues to advocate for home rule and local control in the future.”

Leon County Schools also changed its masking policy to comply with the ban earlier this month. The Florida Department of Education found on Oct. 7 that Leon and seven other districts did not comply with the ban. Leon County School Board members had their paychecks and benefits withheld the week after, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

However, Hanna told the Democrat that local COVID-19 data led to his decision to change the district’s masking policies, not the actions of the state.

“Data and numbers are moving us into compliance, not simply to comply,” he said. “Emergency rule, no emergency rule, we’re going to do what’s best to protect the safety of our children.”

Hanna’s speech is slated to be from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. The event costs $35 to attend for nonmembers.

Tristan Wood

Tristan Wood graduated from the University of Florida in 2021 with a degree in Journalism. A South Florida native, he has a passion for political and accountability reporting. He previously reported for Fresh Take Florida, a news service that covers the Florida Legislature and state political stories operating out of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications. You can reach Tristan at [email protected], or on Twitter @TristanDWood


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