Florida

Florida Department of Education is investigating Leon’s Rocky Hanna

Leon County school principal Rocky Hanna is under investigation, according to the state Department of Education, to determine how his personal views have influenced his work. Hanna is the latest in a line of superintendents to have been forced out of office or resigned after defying Governor Ron DeSantis.

Of the dozen Florida school districts that defied the DeSantis ban on local mask mandates, only five still have their original superintendents. If Hanna is impeached as a result of the investigation, that number will drop to four.

Hanna is the only superintendent of the original dozen to be elected rather than appointed. That means the only way he can be removed from his job — aside from losing an election — is through action by the governor. In a letter, the DOE says Hanna is being investigated to determine whether his personal views influenced his role as superintendent. In a statement, Hanna called the investigation “baseless” and said it was prompted by a complaint sent to the governor by a member of the Moms for Liberty Leon Chapter. Hanna says the complaint concerned a letter he sent to teachers at the beginning of the school year.

The chapter did not respond to a request for comment.

The consequences for confirmed misconduct are reprimands, fines, probation, suspension or loss of the teaching license. Hanna was a popular principal and teacher for nearly 30 years prior to his election. He was a vocal opponent of charter schools and the state scholarship program for private tuition. Hanna also led the district to sue the state over an executive order banning school mask mandates.

News of the investigation was first reported by the Tallahassee Democrat. It circulated for about two weeks after Hanna reportedly briefed members of the Leon County school board just before the Jan. 10 board meeting began.

More recently, Leon has found himself at the center of the political strife surrounding a critic of parental rights law called Don’t Say Gay. The law blocks discussion and teaching about gender identity and sexuality in grades K-3 and limits it to “age appropriateness” in higher grades. It also prevents school districts from withholding information about changes in a child’s mental or physical health. Proponents of the law pointed to a lawsuit against Leon County Schools in which a parent claimed the county withheld information about their child’s preferred pronouns and other LGBTQ housing. The lawsuit was recently dismissed.

Read Hanna’s full statement:

On Christmas Eve, as I was getting ready to go to church with my family, I received a certified letter from the Florida Department of Education telling me that my “personal views” were under investigation.

I believe the investigation stems from a complaint the governor’s office received from a parent who serves on the board of local organization Mom’s For Liberty. The complaint centers on an encouraging email I sent to teachers at the beginning of the school year.

For the past 6 years I have worked hard to support and advocate for our teachers and our traditional public schools. I have always tried my best to be an advocate for our children and to make things right in accordance with the law. This case is absolutely unfounded.

– Superintendent Rocky Hanna

Timeline of superintendent removals and resignations

  • Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade: Resigned to become LA Schools superintendent in December 2021
  • Alachua County Schools: Carlee Simon, dismissed by a vote of 3-2 in March 2022
  • Volusia County Schools: Scott Fritt, released April 2022
  • Orange County Schools: Barbara Jenkins, retired July 2022
  • Bevard County Schools: Mark Mullins, Nov 2022
  • Sarasota County Schools, Brennan Asplen, December 2022
  • Broward County Schools: Vicki Cartwright, fired November 2022, reinstated December 2022, and fired again January 23, 2023.

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