Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried rallied support around a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on school mask mandates.
The ban, Fried alleged, violates federal law and endangers students.
Implemented in July, it empowers the state to impose financial consequences against districts that enact school mask mandates.
“The Governor is forcing parents to make terrible choices,” Fried told reporters in Tampa. “Do you sacrifice your child’s education to keep them safe from COVID? Do you send them to school with a mask and pray for the best? These are the decisions that no parent should have to make, especially when we have such an easy solution: wearing masks.”
Filed in early August, the lawsuit contends DeSantis’ order disproportionally threatens the safety of students with disabilities. What’s more, plaintiffs assert it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Judi Hayes is among the handful of parents signed onto the federal lawsuit. Hayes, the mother of a 10-year-old with Down syndrome, said her son is at higher risk of suffering COVID-19 complications.
“The public option needs to remain a safe option for every child to learn and for every child to go to school,” Hayes said. “If it isn’t safe for kids with disabilities to go to school, it shouldn’t be accessible for anyone.”
The federal lawsuit comes as the delta variant proves itself more threatening to Florida’s youth.
According to the Florida Department of Health, 16,754 children under the age of 12 tested positive for COVID-19 Aug. 6-12.
The total, DOH reports, accounts for a 22.1% positivity rate among children tested.
Meanwhile, DeSantis has maintained a give-no-ground posture to local districts.
The Board of Education voted Tuesday against two school districts that implemented mandatory mask policies. Both counties required students and teachers to wear masks on school grounds.
Under an emergency rule OK’d in August, parents may use a school voucher to transfer students to schools with mitigation measures they deem acceptable.