TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — A Florida school superintendent that the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) claims has “a history of defying the law” considers himself a victim of political persecution after the state moved to revoke his professional educator’s certificate.
Leon County Schools (LCS) Superintendent Rocky Hanna emailed district staff on Thursday, informing them of the news.
“Never in a million years would I have imagined something like this happening to me,” Hanna wrote in the email. “I am angered and disheartened that this situation has gotten this far.”
“It’s a sad day for democracy in Florida, and the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, when a state agency with unlimited power and resources can target a local elected official in such a biased fashion,” Hanna added in a subsequent statement to media outlets on Thursday.
STATE TAKES ACTION
On April 4, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. filed an administrative complaint seeking “the appropriate disciplinary sanction” concerning Hanna’s certificate. The FDOE complaint asserts that Hanna “has a history of defying the law or failing to follow the law with fidelity.”
In January, Hanna told staff that he was under investigation for expressing his “personal views.” Mainstream media outlets are painting Hanna as a martyr attacked by a vengeful governor. The Guardian’s headline on the story implied that Hanna was being attacked because he “criticized” the governor.
In his statement on Thursday, Hanna called the state’s investigation an attempt “to silence myself and anyone else who speaks up for teachers and our public schools in a way that does not fit the political narrative of those in power.”
“Nothing about this case is special,” FDOE spokesperson Alex Lanfranconi said in a statement. “Any teacher with an extensive history of repeated violations of Florida law would be subject to consequences up to and including losing their educator certification.”
DEFYING ORDERS, ENCOURAGING ACTIVISM
The first offense cited in the complaint points to Hanna’s forcing students in LCS schools to wear facemasks ahead of the 2021–2022 school year. Hanna’s mandate defied Governor DeSantis’ executive order prohibiting schools from issuing such requirements.
More recently, Hanna kicked off the 2022–2023 school year by telling teachers not to worry about people aiming to “control what you can and cannot say in your classroom.”
Hanna’s comments appeared to be a thinly veiled reference to the widely publicized Parental Rights in Education Act, which forbids teachers from talking with young children about sexual orientation and gender identity.
“If someone wants to come after you they will have to go through us and our attorneys. We will advocate for you and we will defend you,” Hanna told teachers. “You do You!”
Diaz called Hanna’s “suggestion that no one can tell teachers what they can and cannot say” is in “direct conflict” with the law. Additionally, Diaz argued that the directive “You do You!” opens the door to teachers “imposing their own individual political and religious views on students.”
The letter adds that Hanna incentivized students to attend a February rally at the Florida Capitol protesting the state’s rejection of the “woke” AP African American Studies Course. The state alleges that Hanna sent an email to parents, notifying them that the “civic engagement” event would be recognized as an excused absence.
Diaz also reported that there were 37 incidents when LCS schools did not have a School Safety Officer present as Florida law requires.