A Florida chiropractor has defended signing possibly hundreds of medical exemption forms so students would not have to wear face masks at school. The chiropractor said he empathized with parents who "felt so helpless."
The Sarasota County School Board voted in August to enact a 90-day mandatory mask policy for students, employees, visitors, and vendors. The order allowed for students and employees to remove masks to eat or drink. There was also a mask exemption for "medical reasons."
District officials told WFLA-TV that it had received about 1,700 exemption forms, but 650 were declined after being reviewed. The district school board officials said the majority of the declined forms were signed by chiropractor Dr. Dan Busch.
On Aug. 30, WFLA-TV posted video of dozens of parents and their children standing in line to visit the Twin Palms Chiropractic office, where Busch has worked at since 2001.
On Sept. 1, the district's superintendent of schools updated its mask mandate "to prevent abuse." The stricter guidance only accepts mask exemption forms from licensed medical doctors, osteopathic physicians, or advanced registered nurse practitioners.
Busch defended signing the opt-out forms because they gave the power of choice back to the parents.
"What was so touching is that how many people actually broke down crying because they felt so helpless, and it hit me to have that opportunity to allow the parents to have a choice," Busch explained.
"Every evaluation that I performed was very specific and I performed them in my scope of practice," said Busch. "I had to stay very specific to the diagnoses that were in my wheelhouse, there are plenty that weren't."
Busch claims to have turned away numerous people, who did not qualify for a medical exemption.
Busch told WWSB on Tuesday, "I have not directly heard from the school district but I am more than happy to sit down with the school district. I'm not trying to do something that's shady, irrefutable, unethical. I'll sit down, I would be happy to come to them."
CNN tracked down Busch to question him about the exemption forms, which he told the outlet, "This wasn't about me. This is about parents' freedom."
On Tuesday, the superintendent of the Sarasota County School District, Dr. Brennan Asplen, announced that schools would no longer accept exemption forms signed by Busch or any other chiropractor.
On Sunday in nearby Venice, thousands of people showed up for a "mask-exemption event, where families could get a note from a doctor medically clearing their children from wearing a mask in public schools," according to the Herald-Tribune.
At the event held at a wedding venue, there were reportedly two doctors who provided mask exemptions.
Sarasota Schools spokesperson Craig Maniglia said the district was bracing for up to 2,000 medical exemption forms from the event. He said, "If the physicians meet the requirements and the intent of the policy, they will be accepted. There's not much we can do."
The issue of masks in the classroom has been a heated one. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order banning mask mandates in schools across the state, and "to protect parents' freedom to choose whether their children wear masks."
Weeks later, Florida's two biggest school districts voted to defy DeSantis and his ban on mask mandates.
The Biden administration attempted to undermine the ban on mask mandates. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona offered to work directly with school districts that want to resist DeSantis and implement mask mandates in schools.
In late August, a Florida judge blocked the executive order. Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled the order by DeSantis "is without legal authority" and is by definition "arbitrary" and "capricious."
DeSantis appealed the decision, and a federal judge ruled to reinstate the ban on mask mandates in Florida. The lawsuit argued that the ban on mask mandates violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, Judge K. Michael Moore issued a 34-page ruling on Wednesday that said the plaintiffs should have pursued administrative claims before filing the lawsuit.
"The court finds all plaintiffs would be substantially benefited by pursuing administrative remedies that can provide tailored solutions to each child's individual needs," Moore wrote, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.