Florida parents sue state, DeSantis over mask mandate ban

Politics

TAMPA (WFLA) – Several Florida families have filed at least two lawsuits against the state of Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis over the ban on mask mandates in schools.

One lawsuit was filed in federal court by parents of children with special needs, who argue their children have Constitutional rights protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The other lawsuit is in state court, where several Tampa Bay parents argue the state constitution guarantees their right to send their kids to “safe, secure” public schools. That lawsuit also argues school districts have the right to govern themselves, and that the governor is improperly meddling in local issues.

Gov. DeSantis has vehemently opposed mask mandates and last month signed an executive order prohibiting them in schools.

Damaris Allen is one of the plaintiffs in the state lawsuit. She’s also a Hillsborough County parent, who said the “mask optional” policy doesn’t work to protect people.

“We know that masks work, and when I wear a mask, I’m protecting you from getting whatever I have,” said Allen. “And so masks are only effective if everyone is wearing a mask.”

Allen also pointed out what she called hypocrisy in the governor’s stance.

“Especially coming from a Republican governor,” Allen said. “The Republican Party is supposed to be the party of local control and small government. And so when you don’t allow locally-elected officials to make their own decisions, then you can’t base it on the needs of the community.”

Allen’s case will go before a judge for a hearing on Thursday. Attorneys for Allen and the other plaintiffs say the case has been expedited and is scheduled.

Judi Hayes of Orange County is a plaintiff in the case filed in federal court, who said her 10-year-old son, Will, has Down Syndrome.

At a press conference Wednesday where she was joined by Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Democratic candidate for governor Nikki Fried, Hayes made a similar argument to Allen’s when 8 On Your Side asked why leaving the decision to parents wasn’t an option for her.

“Because we can’t leave the Americans with disabilities Act up to parents individually,” Hayes said. “These are decisions that need to be made at a local level.”

Both lawsuits seek to invalidate the governor’s executive order and allow local school districts to make the decision on whether to enact mask policies.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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