Ladapo’s rule 64DER21-15

64DER21-15 is a new rule from the newly appointed head of the Florida Department of Health.  Governor DeSantis appointed Ladapo, but the state senate has not yet confirmed him. As you read this, please consider if you’d like to ask your state senator to vote no on Dr. Ladapo’s confirmation.

You can find the text of the new ruling at this link:

The new rule also says, “64DER21-15 repeals and replaces rule 64DER21-12 that was adopted August 6, 2021.”

Under the section called “specific reasons“, 64DER21-15 notice says “the Department observed no meaningful difference in the number of COVID-19 cases in school-aged children in counties where school districts have imposed mask mandates…” On what is Dr. Ladapo basing that statement? He indicates no study or data to support that claim. Is he basing that statement on data pre-delta variant?  What would be his conclusion if masking was the only option of these four:

  • windows open
  • keeping six feet apart
  • excellent ventilation systems
  • mask mandates

Excerpt from this article:

Chalkbeat dove back into the research. In short, existing studies focusing on schools — including those cited on both sides of the debate — are strikingly limited. Little if any research has definitively shown what effect masks have on COVID spread in schools. At the same time, there is a broader body of evidence collected in other settings that suggests that masks help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases like COVID-19. That appears to be what’s driving health authorities to recommend masking in the classroom, alongside a general desire to minimize the risk to children and communities when cases are rising. “It’s entirely possible that open windows or fresh-air ventilation accounts for nearly all the mitigation benefit in a classroom and other ‘layered’ interventions may contribute only a marginal benefit or none at all,” concludes Zweig. In fact, it’s not clear that any of the most cited studies examining masks in schools are able to pin down cause and effect. “All of the studies that I have seen,” said Tulane University epidemiologist Susan Hassig, “are not sufficiently rigorous to assess the actual effectiveness of masks” in schools. Some experts say we should look beyond research on masking in schools and keep the basic logic of masking in mind. COVID-19 “is transmitted predominately by inhalation of respiratory droplets generated when people cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe,” explains the CDC. The logic of masks, then, is straightforward. They can block particles, protecting the wearer and limiting transmission from an individual who has the virus. Masking is particularly important for a disease like COVID-19 where an infected individual can transmit the disease before developing symptoms (and thus realizing they should stay home).  Laboratory  simulations  confirm that masks stop many — though not all — of these droplets that could contain the virus. Jeremy Howard, author of a review of masking research and a research scientist at the University of San Francisco, says the benefits of masks very likely apply in school. “For masks in schools, the weight of evidence, when you combine it all together, is very strong,” he said. Mike Smith, a pediatrics professor and epidemiologist at Duke said “We have to make decisions weighing the risks and benefits without the gold standard randomized-controlled trial data.” Ultimately, Sarah Bode, a pediatrician in Columbus, Ohio argues, masks will help keep schools open during the delta surge, and the benefits of in-person school outweigh any downsides of masking.

Elected school boards only make rules for the district-run schools. Charter school boards will be making the rules for their schools. Some Florida state laws apply to both and some only apply to district-run schools. However, I think most people agree district-run and charter schools are considered “public schools” but I keep making the plea that the term “public schools” is outdated since the advent of charter schools and voucher funded private schools. Should public schools mean any school that receives public funds? When people use the term “public schools,” are they being intentionally vague?

64DER21-15 is called “Protocols for Controlling COVID-19 in School Settings.”   Can’t we assume that means all schools?

Item (1) of 64DER21-15 does use the term “public schools” so I assume everyone will agree it applies to the district-run and the charter schools. I make the case that it also applies to voucher funded private schools because of Florida Statute 1002.421 which says:

.A private school participating in an educational scholarship program established pursuant to this chapter must …  be in compliance with all requirements of this section …(g)Meet applicable state and local health, safety, and welfare laws, codes, and rules…

Items (2) and (3) of 64DER21-15 definitely seem to apply to ALL schools, even private schools that don’t receive government funding.

Why is the state Board of Education only going after the district-run schools? Are they even asking what protocols charter and voucher funded private schools are following? Are they threatening to reduce the funding of charter and voucher funded private schools that follow CDC guidelines? The 4 out of the 7 Duval county school board members are merely trying to follow CDC guidelines. Ladapo’s new rule is NOT following CDC guidelines. I agree with the counties that say the Florida Health Department shouldn’t have the authority to tell the Constitutional Officers (the elected school boards)  to NOT follow CDC guidelines. It’s outrageous!

When people use the term “public schools,” are they being intentionally vague? What did “public schools” mean when Article IX of our Florida Constitution was last amended? I’ve heard many people say “charter schools are public schools” but they don’t have to follow all the rules set by district school boards. My memory tells me that charter schools have only been in Florida for 20 years. I’m not sure when the state legislature started giving vouchers to help cover the cost of private school tuition.

ARTICLE IX of Florida’s Constitution

SECTION 1. Public education.—(a) The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may require. To assure that children attending public schools obtain a high quality education, the legislature shall make adequate provision to ensure that, by the beginning of the 2010 school year, there are a sufficient number of classrooms so that …

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