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Florida parents sue schools over masking

Parents and students take Palm Beach County school district to court


Children arrive for the first day of school at Washington Elementary School in Riviera Beach, Fla., on Aug. 10. Associated Press/Photo by Wilfredo Lee

Florida parents sue schools over masking

A group of Florida parents and public school students last week sued the School District of Palm Beach County over a COVID-19 mask mandate that flouts state law. Under state rules, school districts are supposed to leave decisions about facial coverings to parents, but some districts have not followed the directive.

In a complaint filed on Oct. 4, 35 parents and 38 students contended that the Palm Beach school district’s policy of requiring all students to wear masks violated the parents’ right to direct the upbringing of their children, infringed on the children’s right to privacy, and ignored how facial coverings have harmed many of the pupils.

In filing the lawsuit, the parents entered an already contentious fray between a handful of Florida school districts, state officials, and the Biden administration. After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered state health officials to adopt a rule barring districts from overriding parental objections to masks—and threatened to withdraw state funding from those that didn’t comply—the Biden administration sided with the noncompliant school districts by promising to make up their lost funding.

The tit-for-tat continues, with the DeSantis administration moving to further reduce funding and the U.S. Department of Education opening a civil rights probe into whether the loss of funding has violated the rights of students with disabilities.

School officials in Palm Beach County initially complied with the policy by requiring facial coverings but allowing parents to opt out their children for any reason. But after the parents of 11,000 students submitted opt-out letters for their children, the district reversed course and disregarded the letters.

The California-based Pacific Justice Institute, a law firm representing the parents and students, argues that the families deserve relief under the Florida Constitution’s privacy guarantees and the state’s newly passed Parents’ Bill of Rights, which protects “the fundamental rights of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, healthcare, and mental health of his or her minor child.” The law firm also points to adverse physical and psychological effects of masking on some children such as severe anxiety, difficulty breathing, persistent headaches, dermatological issues, and eye infections.

“The Florida Supreme Court has previously ruled that the fundamental right to privacy includes the complete freedom of a person to control their own body,” stated Alexander Bumbu, an attorney for the parents. Bumbu added that a person should not be forced by the government to put something on their face against their will. That argument sounds similar to one accepted last month by a Florida judge who blocked the city of Gainesville’s vaccine mandate for city employees.


Steve West

Steve is a legal correspondent for WORLD. He is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, Wake Forest University School of Law, and N.C. State University. He worked for 34 years as a federal prosecutor and is now an attorney in private practice. Steve resides with his wife in Raleigh, N.C.

@slntplanet

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RKIM8631

CaptTee, if someone breaks a law in order to obey God, would you be saying the same thing? Just like the Texas law for abortion, we should not be using financial penalties like in public health issues. If we are going to say abortion is wrong, we should not require manipulations of laws turning us into litigants instead of peacemakers, appealing in the love of Christ. This antagonistic climate that has been increasing (especially the last 5 years or so), encouraging fighting verbally and physically has resulted in episodes like a Christian county health leader begin nearly run off the road twice for a school mask mandate.
As not silent put it, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we have to love others, too. I know of one person who went to church not realizing that they had a breakthrough infection, and now hopefully has not spread this to others, particularly vulnerable people. In our sacrificial love in Jesus, sometimes that requires us to do what is the loving thing for those who are immunocompromised (like those older than 80). Sometimes standing for Christ means turning the other cheek, giving our tunic as well, realizing that we are peacemakers and that if people turn against us it should be because of our message, not because of our behavior.
Please do not focus on a battle in a way that we will lose the war of being salt and light to the world.

not silent

There are several sides to every issue. Re this one: I have a friend whose son is a college student in Florida. One of the professors lived with a family member who was immune compromised and at risk for severe illness if they contracted COVID 19. Since there were no mask mandates, very few students wore masks to class. The professor pleaded with the students to help protect his family member by wearing masks, but the vast majority refused. He asked that they at least avoid approaching him to ask questions without wearing a mask (and instead to submit questions online) but they refused to do that either. He finally had to move the class online.

There are a LOT of people who have some form of immune compromise and are at risk for severe illness or death from COVID 19. Some of them do not produce adequate immunity even after being vaccinated. I get that there are various reasons why people make the decisions they do, but I appeal to them to consider protecting people like that professor and his family by using the same measures which have been used for decades to protect people against the spread of respiratory illness (i.e., wearing masks and/or getting vaccines).

CaptTee

Because the Board Members personally voted to violate State Law, I hop the lawyers ask that they legal fees be paid by the Board Members personally, except for those Board Members who voted to follow State Law.

That would help build a deterrent against other School Board Members willfully violating State Law and there is no reason for taxpayers to pay for the willful actions of politicians.