Florida Superintendent Investigated for Alleged Violations of Professional Conduct and Rule Violations

The Florida Department of Education is investigating Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna for alleged violations of professional conduct for educators and multiple rule violations. Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. sent a letter to Hanna on April 4, stating that there is probable cause to “justify sanctions against your Florida educator certificate” due to Hanna’s “you do you” statement. Diaz stated that this statement may lead teachers to impose their own political and religious views on students, failing to teach with fidelity the Florida standards established by the State Board of Education.[0] Hanna responded by stating that the investigation was politically motivated and an attempt to silence anyone who speaks up for teachers and public schools in a way that does not fit the political narrative of those in power.[1]

Hanna allegedly issued a memo to teachers after Governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, telling them to continue teaching as they always had without avoiding LGBTQ+ content in classrooms as the law demands.[2] This allegedly prompted a petition from a leader of a local chapter of anti-LGBTQ+ “parents’ rights” group Moms for Liberty, which Hanna believes prompted the probe into his conduct.[3] Moms for Liberty has been at the forefront of flipping school boards conservative in the state and supports the removal of LGBTQ+-affirming books, educators, and students from public schools.[4]

The investigation may result in sanctions against Hanna, including a reprimand, fine, probation, “restriction of the scope of practice,” suspension of up to five years, or permanent revocation of his educator credentials.[5] Diaz wrote in his letter that there is probable cause to “justify sanctions against your Florida educator certificate” due to Hanna’s alleged violations of professional conduct for educators and multiple rule violations.

Hanna responded to the investigation by stating that the tactics used by the Florida Department of Education are a serious cause for concern not just for himself, but for any superintendent or school employee in the state of Florida.[4] He called the investigation politically motivated and an attempt to silence those who speak up for teachers and public schools.[2] He also stated that he will always have the backs of his staff and that they should continue to teach the standards as they always have.

This is not the first time that DeSantis has removed an elected official for their actions.[2] In August 2022, he removed state attorney Andrew Warren (D) after Warren made statements signaling his unwillingness to prosecute people for providing gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth.[2] Last year, DeSantis removed an elected Democratic prosecutor in the Tampa Bay area who signed statements promising not to pursue criminal charges against those who performed abortion or gender transition treatments in violation of state law.[3]

The investigation into Hanna’s conduct is ongoing, and the Florida Department of Education has not commented on the case.

0. “Florida DOE Pursuing Action Against Superintendent Rocky Hanna” tallahasseereports.com, 27 Apr. 2023, https://tallahasseereports.com/2023/04/27/leon-county-superintendent-hanna-says-doe-pursuing-action-against-my-professional-educator-certificate/

1. “State finds ’cause’ to punish Leon superintendent, a DeSantis critic” Tallahassee Democrat, 27 Apr. 2023, https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2023/04/27/state-finds-cause-to-punish-leon-superintendent-a-desantis-critic/70151319007/

2. “Superintendent could lose his job for defying Ron DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” law” LGBTQ Nation, 28 Apr. 2023, https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2023/04/superintendent-could-lose-his-job-for-defying-ron-desantiss-dont-say-gay-law/

3. “DeSantis Takes Aim at School District Leader Who Defied Mask Rules, Publicly Opposed GOP Legislation” Yahoo Life, 28 Apr. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/desantis-takes-aim-school-district-171555063.html

4. “Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna Says He Is in Ron DeSantis’ Crosshairs for Opposing Him” The Daily Beast, 27 Apr. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/leon-county-superintendent-rocky-hanna-says-he-is-in-ron-desantis-crosshairs-for-opposing-him

5. “Leon County Schools superintendent Hanna faces possible sanctions from Florida Department of Education” WTXL ABC 27 Tallahassee News, 28 Apr. 2023, https://www.wtxl.com/news/local-news/leon-county-schools-superintendent-hanna-faces-possible-sanctions-from-florida-department-of-education

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