Ron DeSantis’ mask-optional order draws lawsuit from parents of students with disabilities

Children with face mask back at school after covid-19 quarantine and lockdown.
The state is threatening action against school districts that require masks.

Parents of students with disabilities are suing to strike Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ school mask mandate prohibition as a violation of state and federal law.

According to a lawsuit filed shortly after a State Board of Education emergency meeting stemming from DeSantis’ executive order, preventing schools from enforcing mask requirements could be deadly for students with disabilities who are at a high risk for illness.

Lawyers from Disability Independence Group, the disability advocates who filed the lawsuit, argue the executive order and its accompanying threat to cut funding to school districts that go forward with mandates violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Florida Educational Equity Act. Prohibiting mask mandates in schools prevents vulnerable students with disabilities from returning to public school classrooms, forcing children to go elsewhere or take virtual classes that might not be suitable for their cognitive abilities, the suit continues.

“Excluding children from the public-school classroom because of a disability or not placing a student in the least restrictive environment is exactly the type of discrimination and segregation the ADA and its amendments aim to prevent and specifically prohibit,” according to the lawsuit.

COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths have been on the rise in recent weeks. Florida saw record-breaking hospitalizations this week.

Meanwhile, reports show an increasing number of hospitalizations among children for COVID-19 not seen in prior surges before the delta variant. Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna on Wednesday said several of the district’s school-age children had been hospitalized.

DeSantis filed his executive order last week as cases began rising and some school districts hoped to implement mask requirements. On Friday, the Board of Education passed emergency rules against “COVID-19 harassment,” including mask mandates. Those rules would allow parents of students who go to schools with mask requirements to transfer their children to private schools or other districts.

“This entire effort is likely illegal. They are bending over backwards all for politics,” tweeted Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, who praised parents for bringing the lawsuit.

Sen. Gary Farmer, a Broward County Democrat, sent Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran a letter Thursday claiming the proposed measure breaks state law. because it bypasses the Legislature.

DeSantis has hinted at a Special Session on masks, and he says the Parent’s Bill of Rights he signed into law in June ensures parents have the authority to make decisions about their own children’s medical and mental health.

Students have been hurt by a lack of face-to-face interactions in the classroom, DeSantis and Corcoran say.

The Board of Education’s rule works in tandem with a Department of Health rule requiring schools to let parents or guardians “opt-out the student from wearing a face covering or mask.” Surgeon General Scott Rivkees signed that rule Friday, along with rules for COVID-19 symptoms, positives and exposures.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


13 comments

  • Andrew Finn

    August 6, 2021 at 3:43 pm

    I guess blackmail is okay and legal when “the state” uses it to threaten the school districts with stopping their funds if they don’t bow to the Emperor !!!!!!

  • Toya

    August 7, 2021 at 7:52 am

    The governor does not care about Florida and our child because they are not votes

  • Benny

    August 7, 2021 at 7:56 am

    The governor is a bully and he does not care about our children and their lives. Look a our COVID numbers and he wants us to send our babies back to school to get sick. He does not even care about Florida, look at our COVID numbers. He is the worst governor.

  • Edward Lyle

    August 7, 2021 at 4:41 pm

    To paraphrase the previous comments… Whaaaaaa.

    Every parent should have the choice to either educate their children via the ever-failing Public Indoctrination System, or a successful private/Christian school that actually follows the science. It’s an easy call… teach them

    Rioting, Racism, and Anarchy
    … or…
    Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

    Defund the Teacher’s Unions!

    • Jana Murdock

      August 7, 2021 at 9:30 pm

      You should educate yourself on what a pandemic is. As someone who went to private school, it was no netter than our public school. Sorry, parents don’t get to decide about masks during a dangerous pandemic. Everyone ends to buck up, including kids. That’s the problem today., coddling kids away from reality.

    • tjb

      August 8, 2021 at 8:27 am

      I am glad that a successful Christian school believes in science, about time they accepted evolution.

  • Cindy Epperson

    August 8, 2021 at 6:22 am

    A mandate to wear masks but you can fill out a form to opt out, how does that prevent the spread of COVID, in schools, it only works when we all realize that this disease will spread quicker, if we ALL don’t protect ourselves from the disease. Wear the masks and open the schools so the kids can LEARN.

  • katrina chapel

    August 9, 2021 at 10:24 am

    Well they can look forward to another one if this has no effect, due to the fact one of my children has underlying health conditions, so does my husband and he wants to unmask kids to spread death and sickness? This is crazy! And the so called vaccine is BS AND the government has now threatened the CDC to retract statements, am I the only one who finds this odd!

  • Nic

    August 10, 2021 at 2:37 pm

    DeSantis is violating the right of people to protect themselves and is blatantly enforcing undue stress upon our public school and social system. Shame on his ignorance.

  • Denny Bailey

    August 12, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    Desantis must resign today as governor
    Or face criminal charges over the deaths caused by his handling of covd19 across Florida and Florida schools.

  • Jamie

    August 12, 2021 at 9:01 pm

    It won’t matter either way!!! Mask, don’t mask if your child comes in contact with covid thru contact tracing…they are going home, quarentined for 10 days. They whole thing has turned political. We didn’t shut the country down including schools during the Polio pandemic, or the Spanish flu. To say Desantis doesn’t care about kids is ridiculous, he has children of his own.

  • Capt. Matthew J. Hight

    August 14, 2021 at 7:38 pm

    How about this, read the Brown University Study…just a thought. Brown, no bastion of conservative thinking, flat out proves, there is no relation / correlation between COVID transmission and masks. Have been through chemical and biological weapons training, I assure you, a rage selectively worn across your nose and mouth does NOTHING to prevent the spread of a virus, ANY virus. Stop acting like sheep. Work on your personal health, because if you’re obese you need to know this is the number one co-morbidity. Overall, this virus has a death rate under 0.1%. Stop listening to people with an agenda and do some independent thinking. And most of all, YOU DO YOU!!!

    • lucia

      August 16, 2021 at 3:37 am

      @Capt. Mathew J. Hight, But there are plenty of anti-mask people who can’t let go of their fried foods, big portions, red meats, sedentary lifestyles, hefty desserts, alcohol, and cigarettes either. And what about the medically vulnerable people who did not choose poor lifestyle choices but still suffer because of aging, being born immunocompromised, having a heart defect from birth, and people who were born with asthma, Down’s Syndrome, sickle cell disease, certain types of anemia, and so on. So they should be punished too for being born with genes and situations they didn’t choose to born with? Sure ebola, mers, tb, 2003 sars, etc are deadly too but they are not as hyper contagious as covid is. The flu, cold, mmr, pneumonia, strep, bronchitis, swine flu, etc are contagious but not as deadly. That’s why masks, distancing, and so forth were never forced on us prior to 2020. And that’s why vaccines for some of those illnesses were never pushed on us like the covid one is. This is not politics. We’re a nation of public health and safety laws too. If masks shouldn’t be worn and no government nor any business should protect you from viruses and bacteria, then what? Cockroaches at restaurants now? Dirty bathrooms at gas stations? Raw meat, recalled foods, and expired stuff can be sold to you at stores now? Flies can surround us at coffee shops? You want a hotel clerk to check you into a uncleaned room now? A waiter to sit you down at a dirty table now? You want to see mice, rodents, and pests at your local barber and department store now? After all, it’s there freedom and right to allow those things in their workplaces now? So it’s tyranny and infringement for health inspectors to go after those things now? That’s why that whole “you do you” mindset doesn’t work and that’s my “independent thinking” right there.

Comments are closed.


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