(Trends Wide) — A school district in Sarasota County, Florida, tightened its mask-wearing policy after a chiropractor signed hundreds of medical exemption forms allowing students to opt out of wearing masks in schools, authorities said.
The Sarasota County School Board voted in August to implement a 90-day mandatory mask use policy for students, employees, visitors and vendors, with exceptions for medical reasons or if wearing a mask is not consistent with the Education Plan. Individualized student.
Then, on Sept. 1, the district updated its policy to only accept medical exemption forms from licensed physicians, osteopathic physicians, or registered advanced practice nurses, Superintendent Brennan Asplen said in a letter to families and employees.
The decision was due in part to a chiropractor who signed hundreds of medical forms exempting students from the mandate to wear masks, a district official told Trends Wide. Chiropractors are not doctors.
The school district has rejected about 650 medical exemption forms, “the majority” of which were signed by Dan Busch, a chiropractor at Twin Palms Chiropractic in Venice, he said.
Busch has defended signing the forms, he told Trends Wide affiliate WWSB.
“Every assessment I did was very specific and I did it in my field of practice,” Busch said last month. “I had to be very specific with the diagnoses that were in my control; there are many that were not.”
Busch’s attorney told Trends Wide Tuesday that Busch had no comment.
When asked by Trends Wide a day later about the exemption forms and whether he had screened all the children, Busch said, “This is not about me. This is about parental freedom.”
Later, Trends Wide contacted Busch’s attorney, who said Busch had no comment.
Mask-wearing mandates in schools have been a polarizing issue across the country, as millions of students have returned to classrooms amid the prevalence of the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, which can cause more serious diseases than previous strains.
And the issue is red-hot in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has clashed with local officials who want to impose mask mandates on schools. DeSantis signed a decree in July that directs state departments of education and health to issue emergency rules giving parents the option of having their children wear face masks in class. The state threatened to withhold funds from districts that violated DeSantis’ order.
Amid legal challenges, a Florida First District judge ruled Friday in favor of an emergency appeal from DeSantis, blocking mask-wearing requirements of local schools for now, court documents show.
Sarasota County has a high level of COVID-19 transmission, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People who live in areas with “substantial” or “high” transmission rates should wear masks indoors, even if they are vaccinated, the CDC guidance says.
Parents are divided over the use of masks in schools
Before Sarasota County changed its policy on mask use, parents had lined up outside Busch’s office, waiting for his signature on their mask exemption forms.
Caitlyn Sparks was one of the mothers who tried to get an exclusion form signed by Busch.
“I think it’s cool because a lot of doctors refuse to sign it, and this is a doctor who is actually volunteering his time without pay to sign all these forms,” Sparks told Trends Wide affiliate WFLA. “I think it is ridiculous to have to wear a mask for eight hours a day.”
Meanwhile, Jules Scholles, whose daughter is in kindergarten in Sarasota County, believes Busch’s behavior puts many people at risk, he told Trends Wide.
“I think he’s not only putting the students and the kids at risk, but he’s also putting the students and kids that they go to school with at risk. And also the community here in Sarasota,” Scholles said .
“The point of wearing masks is that you wear your mask to protect me; I wear my mask to protect you. And so once we start to walk away from it, it really becomes a concern not only for the classroom, but for the students as well. teachers. And also for health workers, “added Scholles.
Trends Wide’s Kate Conerly and Anne Clifford contributed to this report.