Mask rule faces renewed challenges as sanctions draw close


School classroom with blackboard

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News Services) – Eight Florida School districts are weighing their options after being found out of compliance with a state mask rule requiring a parental opt-out.

Six districts filed an administrative complaint this week challenging the rule as Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is accusing the state of playing games over school masks.

The administrative complaint, which has yet to be scheduled, says the Department of Health exceeded its authority because the rule is about protecting parents rights, something not in the Department of Health’s jurisdiction.

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna is one of the plaintiffs.

“One, we believe it’s an overreach of authority by the Department of Health. That they have operated outside what is statutorily allowed for them to do with a parent opt-out. That’s not their area. Their area is to keep people safe and healthy. And number two, we believe we are operating under the Parents Bill of Rights” Hanna said.

Duval County would not comment on the pending litigation, but it did say in a statement it has a responsibility to provide a safe environment for learning.

Gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Fried sided with the school districts, again, telling reporters: “Governor DeSantis, stop playing politics.”

Fried today called on the White House to continue backfilling school district budgets to make up for financial sanctions about to be imposed by the Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. 

“I’m calling on the White House and the US Department of Education to use the full weight of the Federal government to stop the DeSantis administration from defunding our schools,” she says.

The mask rule was adopted on Sept. 22 just days before a previous rule was about to go to trial at the Division of Administrative Hearings, when the new rule was adopted, the previous challenge was stopped in its tracks.

There is nothing to stop the state from changing the rule again right before a hearing.

Like Duval County, the Department of Health said it could not comment on pending litigation.

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