Florida Chiropractor Allegedly Gave Pre-Signed Medical Waivers for Mask Mandate Exemptions

A Florida school district is looking into allegations that a chiropractor is providing exemptions to the district's mask mandate to anyone who asks for one—without even meeting with students.

Video taken by WFLA—a Tampa-based television news station—shows dozens of parents and students waiting in a line outside Twin Palms Chiropractic Health in Venice, where Dr. Dan Busch has allegedly signed dozens of exemption forms in the past week, as Sarasota County's mask mandate has gone into effect, the station reported.

After hearing claims that the office was giving pre-signed exemptions to anyone who wanted them, one local mother, Paulina Testerman, expressed shock in an interview with Newsweek. Her family decided to investigate the claims, so her husband went in to see if he could get the waiver.

"She asked how many he needed, handed him two waivers and he walked out," she said.

Testerman said her family felt the need to shine a light on the situation, which she said is "circumventing all the rules and regulation."

Another parent went in after the allegations were revealed and Busch announced that he would make sure patients were being seen properly, but that the exam took less than three minutes, and he did not ask for any patient intake form or insurance, Testerman said.

She has been in contact with the school board, which has since ruled that they will not accept forms from Busch.

She said it is "alarming" that children were allegedly given exemptions without proper examinations—including checking for shortness of breath while wearing masks and not listening to their lungs.

"We're not going to put up with doctors who circumvent true medical knowledge and go rogue and sign whatever they please," Testerman said.

She said the situation is "spitting in the face of he medical community, staff and caregivers."

"There is only one reason why parents have to go to subpar medical experts to receive signatures for mask waivers," she said. "Because our entire medical community stands together in the evidence that COVID is real, dangerous to children and masking is best way to protect children."

Sarasota County Schools told the station they are aware of and concerned about the situation.

Spokesperson Craig Maniglia said the district has received "a fair amount of exemption forms" from the practice that are being looked into.

In a statement to Newsweek, Busch's attorney Bryan Kessler denied "personally handing out pre-signed mask exemptions contrary to this established policy" and is conducting an internal review to determine if members of his staff handed out pre-signed exemptions.

Busch is aware of a report that forms were copied, resulted in apparent blank, pre-signed exemptions and has implemented protocols to make it easier to authenticate mask exemptions from his office, the statement said.

To determine if a student qualifies for an exemption, Busch has a parent or guardian complete a health history and then meets with them and the student to complete an evaluation.

"Dr. Busch and his associates only sign a mask exemption if they make a diagnosis within their scope of practice as licensed chiropractors, such as a neuromuscular skeletal condition, which would warrant a student to be medically excused from wearing a mask," the statement said.

Newsweek reached out to Sarasota schools and Testerman for comment Tuesday morning but had not heard back by publication. This story will be updated with any response.

Earlier in August, Sarasota County became the first Trump-won county to defy Governor Ron DeSantis' now-overturned ban on mask mandates due to concern over rising COVID-19 cases in the district, Newsweek previously reported.

"With COVID going through there, that's not safe," Shirley Brown, a school board member who voted for the mandate, previously told Newsweek. "When you have to quarantine the students who are nearby, you have to have so many students out."

COVID-19 cases in Sarasota County have been increasing since July and many hospitals in the area reaching ICU capacity, according to data from The New York Times. On Monday, the county had a 7-day-average of 482 new cases per day, compared to an average of 202 one month earlier.

DeSantis' high-profile battle over whether or not school districts can mandate mask wearing went to court last week, where Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper ruled the Republican governor overstepped his authority.

DeSantis and other opponents of mask mandates argued that mandates would violate a new Florida law—the Parents' Bill of Rights—that gives parents total control to make health-related decisions for their children, but Cooper pointed out that there are exemptions to the law when it involves protecting the public's health.

Several school districts in the state had imposed mask mandates in defiance of DeSantis' order before Cooper's ruling.

On Monday, DeSantis pledged to appeal the ruling, arguing that schools mandating masks has "basically taken away the right of parents" to make that decision.

Miami School
The school district in Sarasota County, Florida is investigating claims that a chiropractor is giving out exemptions to the district’s mask mandate without meeting with students. Here, students are seen wearing face masks in a school north of Miami on August 18. CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

Updated 08/31/2021, 5:39 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with a statement from Dr. Dan Busch's attorney, Bryan Kessler.

Updated 09/4/2021, 3:45 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with comments from Paulina Testerman.