As the recent COVID wave in Florida recedes, all school districts that previously enforced mask mandates in Florida have dropped their masks requirements. In addition, a number of school districts that chose to challenge the Department of Health (DOH) rule that banned mask mandates have decided to end their legal challenges to the rule.
Back in October, the Leon County School District – home to the state capitol – ended a mask mandate policy with a parental opt-out provision. The decision came after the district was found to be violating the DOH rule.
Following the Leon County decision, the Broward County School District voted to remove its mask mandates for all school levels effective November 20th.
Next, the Miami-Dade School District – the largest school system in Florida – changed its mask mandate policy. In a statement released on November 9th, the district informed parents of children in all school levels they could opt out from a mask requirement.
With the Alachua County School Board’s decision on Wednesday to drop the mask mandates, none of Florida’s school districts are enforcing mask mandates.
In addition to the mask mandate policies, school districts across the state recently chose to challenge the DOH rule that banned mask mandates. The Florida Department of Education has used the rule as a basis to impose financial penalties on school districts that required students to wear masks.
However, after a ruling by an administrative judge favorable to the DOH argument supporting the rule, some school districts have opted to cease their legal challenge.
Originally, six school districts in Alachua, Broward, Duval, Leon, Miami-Dade and Orange counties teamed up to challenge the rule in a case filed with the Division of Administrative Hearings. In the filing, the districts argued the state lacked the authority to ban mask mandates.
However, on November 5th an Administrative Law Judge ruled that the DOH had the legal authority to craft a rule that empowers parents to decide if their children should wear masks at school and ensures that healthy students can remain in school.
Following the decision, school districts in Orange, Leon and Alachua counties decided not to move forward in the appeal process.
Alachua Board Member Robert Hyatt indicated the withdrawal from the appeal process would end legal battling over the issue.
“Our situation now is, we basically have no way forward in the courts. And I think it’s at that point time to put this aside,” said Hyatt.
The fate of the appeal is now left to those districts in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Duval counties.
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Steve Stewart is the Managing Editor and a contributor at The Florida Capital Star. Email tips to [email protected]