Three Florida School Districts Challenge Mask Mandate Ban

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As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is appealing a ruling over the state’s mask mandate ban, three school districts are directly challenging the state’s rule by filing a challenge with the Florida Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).

Attorneys for the Alachua, Broward, and Orange counties filed the challenge targeting the Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) rule to block mask mandate bans. The ban keeps school districts from imposing a mask mandate so long as there is a parent permission opt-out.

In the challenge, the attorneys for the school boards said the rule is “arbitrary and capricious” and that it does not ensure the parent opt-out is “unlimited.”

“The emergency rule does not state that the opt-out must be unlimited, does not declare an intent to preempt related regulations or occupy the field, and does not otherwise prevent schools from establishing parameters for the opt-out,” the challenge said. “The school boards’ face coverings policies comply with the requirements of the emergency rule since those policies include circumstances under which a parent or legal guardian can opt-out a student from wearing a face covering or mask.”

The mask mandate ban was initially an executive order signed by DeSantis ahead of the start of the fall school year, and has since gone through numerous steps in the legal process.

The three counties taking part in the challenge are three of the most notable school districts that have been defiant in following state law and imposed a mask mandate, despite threats from the Florida Department of Education (DOE) to remove funding from their districts.

In fact, the DOE has already opted to withhold funding from Alachua and Broward county school districts for their rogue actions.

The challenge filed with DOAH is not necessarily taking aim at the constitutionality of the mask mandate ban, but the validity of the DOH rule. The attorneys for the districts contend the mask mandate ban does not pertain to immunizations in children, which state law does have a legal basis to mandate, meaning the mask mandate ban is overstepping the state agency’s legal authority.

“The emergency rule clearly does not pertain to “immunization of children against” or the ‘testing for … preventable communicable diseases,’” the challenge said. “Therefore (the law) may only serve as support for the emergency rule if the emergency rule pertains to ‘the control of preventable communicable diseases.’ It does not.”

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at the Florida Capital Star and the Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.
Photo “Student Wearing Masks in Music Class” by Alachua County Public Schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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