School districts, parents, Biden administration all looking to thwart Gov. DeSantis’ school mask policy

Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News Services) – Governor Ron DeSantis is now saying school districts imposing mask mandates without the option for parents to opt-out aren’t defying him, he says they’re breaking the law.

Despite the threat of sanctions from the Board of Education, Hillsborough, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade have joined Alachua and Broward and removed parental opt-out options.

With a total of five districts now defying Department of Health rules mandating a parental opt-out from mask mandates, the Biden Administration has announced it will look into potential legal action to thwart Florida’s mask-optional mandate.

“I really appreciate it. Every single county looks different,” said Hillsborough School Board Member Karen Perez regarding the potential federal help.

For Perez, the staggering 10,000 plus quarantines in the first week of school made her decision to remove the opt-out requirement easy.

“Because right now they’re out of the classroom. We want them in the classroom,” said Perez.

Between school staff and students, 0.89 percent of her district has been infected with COVID while operating under the prior mask optional policy.

That’s compared to 0.77 percent in Alachua, where masks were mandated since day one.

We asked if the relatively similar case rates between the two counties factored into her decision to remove the parental opt-out.

“At 10,000 quarantined, I’m not gonna wait until that number gets higher,” said Perez.

Districts have not challenged the opt-out requirement in the courts yet, but a Circuit Court Judge heard a lawsuit brought by parents challenging the state policy Thursday afternoon.

The hearing was on the state’s motion to dismiss the suit, but the judge ruled he would allow the case to go forward.

The state argued by allowing the case to go to trial the Judge would find himself in the position of legislating from the bench.

“The court would be walking squarely into a non-justiciable political question,” said the state’s attorney Michael Abel.

What sanctions districts that remove parental opt-out options will face is still unclear.

Multiple possibilities including removal from office have been floated, but there had been no official announcement as of Thursday afternoon.

In response to the potential for federal interference in the state’s masking policy, DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told us in a statement,

“Forced-maskers often criticize Governor DeSantis for overruling “local control” in his defense of individual rights. Yet they support Biden’s blatant federal overreach. CDC bureaucrats and their inconsistent, politicized “guidance” does not supersede the rights of parents to make health and education decisions for their own children. “

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