© 2024 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna is under investigation by the Florida Department of Education

 Superintendent of Leon County Schools Rocky Hanna speaking on public schools remaining open.
Alejandro Santiago
WFSU Public Media
Superintendent of Leon County Schools Rocky Hanna speaking on public schools remaining open.

Of the 12 Florida school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on local mask mandates, only five have their original superintendents.

Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna is under investigation for what the state department of education says is the degree to which his personal views have impacted his job. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, Hanna could become the latest in a line of superintendents who've lost their jobs after running afoul of the DeSantis administration.

Of the dozen Florida school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on local mask mandates, only five still have their original superintendents. If Hanna is removed from office as a result of the investigation, that number goes down to four.

Hanna is the only superintendent of the original dozen that is elected and not appointed. That means the only way he can be removed from his job — aside from losing an election — is through gubernatorial action. In a letter, the DOE says Hanna is being investigated for whether his personal views have impacted his role as superintendent. In a statement, Hanna called the investigation “meritless” and said it was sparked by a complaint sent to the governor by a member of the Moms for Liberty Leon Chapter. Hanna says the complaint was over a letter he sent teachers at the start of the school year.

The chapter did not respond to a request for comment.

The consequences for any confirmed misconduct include reprimands, fines, probation, suspension, or the loss of a teaching certificate. Hanna was a popular principal and teacher for nearly 30 years prior to his election. He has been a vocal opponent of charter schools, and the state’s private tuition scholarship program. Hanna also led the district into a lawsuit against the state over an executive order banning school mask mandates.

News of the investigation was first reported by the Tallahassee Democrat. It had been circulating for about two weeks after Hanna reportedly informed members of the Leon County School board right before the start of the Jan. 10th board meeting.

More recently, Leon found itself at the center of the political fray over a parental rights law critics called "Don't Say Gay." The law blocks discussion and instruction of gender identity and sexuality in grades K-3 and limits it to "age appropriateness" in higher grades. It also blocks school districts from withholding information on changes in a child's mental or physical health. Supporters of the law pointed to a lawsuit against Leon County Schools where a parent claimedthe district withheld information regarding their child's preferred pronouns and other LGBTQ accommodations. The lawsuit was recently dismissed.

Read Hanna's full statement:

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

I believe the investigation stems from a complaint received by the Governor’s Office from a parent who serves on the Executive Board for the local Mom’s For Liberty organization. The complaint focuses on an encouraging email I sent to teachers at the beginning of the school year.

For the last 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 a champion for our children and to do things the right way in accordance with the law. There is absolutely no merit to this case whatsoever.

--Superintendent Rocky Hanna

Timeline of superintendent removals and resignations

  • Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade: Resigned to become superintendent of LA Schools in Dec. 2021

  1. Alachua County Schools: Carlee Simon, fired on a 3-2 vote in March 2022

  1. Volusia County Schools: Scott Fritt, fired in April 2022

  1. Orange County Schools: Barbara Jenkins, retired July, 2022

  1. Brevard County Schools: Mark Mullins, Nov. 2022

  1. Sarasota County Schools, Brennan Asplen, December 2022

  1. Broward County Schools: Vicki Cartwright, fired Nov. 2022, reinstated Dec. 2022, and re-fired January 23rd, 2023.

Copyright 2023 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.