A Florida chiropractor has reportedly signed more than 500 medical exemptions for parents who want their children to opt out of the new mask mandate issued by Sarasota County, one of several defying Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisMore voters would pick Trump over Biden if election were held today: poll 17 Democratic state AGs back challenge to Florida voting limits The Memo: Media obsess over Trump's past as he eyes comeback MORE’s (R) ban on mask requirements in schools.
Sarasota County Schools spokesman Craig Maniglia told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that local chiropractor Dan Busch has signed about one-third of all medical exemption forms it had received in response to its mask mandate, which officially went into effect Monday.
According to the medical exemption form, a copy of which the school district shared with The Hill, students are required to wear masks unless they provide a form signed by a medical professional indicating "that the person has a medical, physical or psychological contraindication that prevents the person from being able to safely wear a face covering."
Rumors have circulated that Busch handed out pre-signed forms without meeting with parents. However, Busch denied this claim in an interview with local NBC affiliate WFLA.
“I myself, I will tell you I have not given exemptions to any parents that I have not met with,” he said.
“This is not a political thing,” Busch said. “I am not an anti-mask person or an anti-vax person, but I am a pro-freedom, pro-choice person.”
Busch, who runs Twin Palms Chiropractic in Venice, Fla., said that “any Florida licensed health care physician” can sign a mask exemption form.
“Your dentist could do this, your psychiatrist could do this, your psychologist can do this,” he added. “You were looking at things like respiratory distress, hypoxia, asthma, anxiety, depression – there are a lot of qualifying conditions.”
Bryan Kessler, an attorney representing Busch, said in a statement shared with The Hill that his client "has an established policy ... of meeting personally with a student and parent and/or legal guardian to determine whether a medical condition within the scope of practice as a licensed chiropractor exists which warrants the granting of a mask exemption under the guidelines established by the Sarasota County School Board."
"Dr. Busch adamantly denies personally handing out pre-signed mask exemptions contrary to this established policy," the lawyer said, adding that Busch was conducting an internal review to determine if "pre-signed mask exemptions were being handed out by members of his staff without his consent and knowledge."
"Dr. Busch is willing to work with the School Board to determine whether a tendered mask exemption form signed by him or someone from his office is authentic in an effort to combat this alleged activity," Kessler said.
Following reports on the hundreds of exemptions signed by Busch, district Superintendent Brennan Asplen issued an updated policy Tuesday evening saying that exemptions would only be accepted if signed by a medical doctor, licensed osteopathic physician or registered nurse practitioner.
Asplen defended the change as a way to “be consistent in our consideration of whether medical reasons warrant individuals to be exempt from the policy and to prevent abuse.”
Sarasota is one of 10 school districts in Florida that has defied DeSantis’s mask mandate ban, despite threats from state officials to withhold funds for failing to comply with the executive order.
Parents opposed to local mask mandates have sought out ways to avoid the requirements, and a Florida hospital last week said it had removed a local doctor who posted on social media that he would provide mask opt-out letters to parents at a price of $50 each.
The Hill has reached out to Busch's office for additional comment.
Updated at 1:25 p.m.