Palm Beach Schools to pursue legal challenge of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

Children with face mask back at school after covid-19 quarantine and lockdown.
Palm Beach County is the second to take legal steps to challenge DeSantis order

The Palm Beach School Board committed Wednesday to challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ mask order in court — a move that comes as more than half of the state’s public school students attend schools with policies defying his emergency order prohibiting mask requirements.

And now, with Palm Beach entering the courtroom battle zone, 16% of Florida students go to school districts legally challenging that order.

The Palm Beach School Board voted unanimously at an emergency meeting Wednesday to engage outside legal counsel to challenge DeSantis’ order that prohibits mask mandates. The board is the second district to announce legal steps to defy the Governor after Broward County. Broward, home to Florida’s second-largest school district, voted on Aug. 10 to challenge DeSantis’ order. Palm Beach County School District is the state’s fifth-largest school district.

Parents of students are also suing against the order.

The Palm Beach County vote followed nearly four hours of contentious public comment that included people having their microphones cut off and others escorted from the meeting room. The recommendation to hire a lawyer to challenge the order was approved with no comment from the board at Wednesday’s meeting.

Earlier, though, Palm Beach County School Board Member Alexandria Ayala said she believes that mandatory masking for students is the best way to keep kids in school — and healthy. She was in a news conference with other school board members from Broward and Miami-Dade County. Miami-Dade County voted Aug. 18 to require student masks when school started on Monday.

“I would really like to see these legal challenges move through the courts because I believe our school boards will be on the right side of the legal system as well as the right side of history,” Ayala said.

Christina Pushaw, the Governor’s spokeswoman, said that there is no convincing data that supports masking children, although the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it.

” … UK, Ireland and other counties do NOT recommend masking kids in school,” she texted Thursday morning. “It’s sad to see how politicized this issue has become because parents’ rights to make decisions for their own kids’ health and education shouldn’t be a political issue — and in many other countries it isn’t.”

DeSantis has said at earlier events that challenging his emergency order is a way to get on CNN. Broward School Board Member Sarah Leonardi, who has been on CNN discussing the mask mandate, said that was hardly the reason she voted for requiring student masks.

“I think that accusation says more about Ron DeSantis than it does about any of us,” Leonardi said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, speakers largely lambasted Palm Beach County School Board members for disobeying the law, going rogue on parents’ rights to decide for their children, and using their children for political reasons.

Parents spoke of children traumatized by being segregated from their mask-wearing fellow students and how school started with the right for parents to opt out of mask-wearing, which was soon revoked. The district backtracked on the opt-out after thousands of students tested positive for the virus or were quarantined for exposure.

“They’ve had the joy stolen out of them,” said Amanda Wood, mother of three young children.

Robert Rosetto, a Boca Raton father of a fifth-grader, said his son didn’t want to wear a mask and said his decision to let him go mask-free is not hurting anyone.

“This is our personal choice,” he said. “This is our personal freedom.”

A civil rights attorney, Barry Silver, was one of the few defending the district’s decision to oppose DeSantis’ emergency order.

“No parent has the right to send their child to school without a mask and spread disease to everyone,” he said.

At the news conference earlier, Ayala said that she believes the vast majority of her school district constituents agree that masks should be mandated, except for those with a documented medical reason. And, despite the threats she’s received from opponents to come to her home, she’s willing to do whatever it takes.

“We need to do everything in our power to make sure that the majority of students we serve, at least in Palm Beach County, are protected,” she said. “I’m willing to go as far as it takes to do what I know my community expects me to do.”

Besides Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, other school districts defying the Governor’s order against mandated masks are in Alachua, Duval, Hillsborough, Indian River, Leon, Orange and Sarasota counties.

As of Wednesday, only Alachua and Broward have received official notice that they will face financial penalties for having mask mandates in violation of the Governor’s order. Ayala said she expects the district will hear from the State Education Department later this week.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • Alex

    August 25, 2021 at 10:17 pm

    Florida desperately needs a Governor recall system to remove this soulless far right moron.

    • John

      August 26, 2021 at 4:27 am

      Why? At least our governor wants people to make their own decisions for their child instead of the government. If you want your child masked up and breathing in their saliva and sweat all day go for it. Go to Canada if you want cradle to grave government rule. Funny, last I looked ALL the Taliban that just destroyed your president and took all our equipment weren’t wearing any masks. Guess they came up with a way to not use masks and not die due to Covid?

      • Patrick

        August 26, 2021 at 9:22 am

        It’s a matter of health, not a parent’s right to choose it’s a matter of health and safety. Does a parent have a right to keep their child out of a car seat? How about smoking in a restaurant? And on and on.. Really, really moronic statements accross the board.

  • Peterh

    August 26, 2021 at 2:01 am

    Fighting DeSantis Trump and Trumpism has become about much more than just the ballot box and election years. It’s about revealing the rot in every corner of Trump’s GOP. Our fight is now to unmask their epidemics of grifting, life-threatening COVID conspiracies, voter suppression campaigns, dictator-worship, and media manipulation. We’re unmasking the new Republican “Party” as what they truly are: an autocratic MAGA mob.

    Each time you read an email, click “share,” or pitch in when you’re able, you help keep us in this fight.. And because you’re one of our most dedicated allies, we want to know where you think we should focus. What corporation needs to be held to account for supporting the insurrectionists? Which Governor needs to feel pressure for playing to Trump and putting kids’ lives at risk?

    What conversations are happening in your feeds and at dinner? Take our short priorities survey and tell us where our focus should be in the fight against Trump.

    There is so much misinformation, corruption, greed, conspiracy, and outright danger in what we’re fighting. They’re trying to sow this chaos. It’s what they do best and it’s how they retain control. But your input helps us cut through the chaos.

    • John

      August 26, 2021 at 4:33 am

      Guess President Trump still lives rent free in your liberal mind. Go ahead and mask your child for 8 hours a day and probably while you drive. We have a great governor that knows the constitution and the limited government rule we are suppose to have in this country. Unlike you, many of us want the ability to make our OWN decisions not the government. Dr. Fauchi ring a bell? You believe this quack? Not one study of these blue masks that your school system is handing out has an effective rate of more that 12% for virus stoppage. Would you wear a condom for 8 hours that only had a 12% chance of stopping you well you know,,……..Also ,what happened to MY BODY MY CHOICE ??????

      • Patrick

        August 26, 2021 at 9:25 am

        Then why do Drs and nurses wear them all the time. Even before COVID. Your ok with DeSantis mandating against masks but not for Groups that mandate wearing them. Safety first.

    • ScienceBLVR

      August 26, 2021 at 7:08 am

      Well said, Peter! My mother has been a lifelong Republican, slightly liberal on social issues, but a solidly conservative middle of the road supporter of the GOP. No longer. She has voted for the democratic candidate for President since Obama’s second term and also for most other state and federal offices. She says she is ashamed of what the Grand Old Party has become. And she is smarter than most folks, I gotta tell ya. She just keeps hoping there will be enough brave GOP Legislators to buck the Trumpian trend of misogyny, white supremacy and anti-science rhetoric. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be going in that direction.

  • John

    August 26, 2021 at 4:21 am

    So to the mask fanatics please present a current or even past study that shows above 12% effective rate of stoppage against this or any VIRUS. Also please take a look at YOUR great superintendent and his large gathering this weekend where NO masks were worn and he had several people well within the 3 feet suggested space. Rules for thee NOT for me. If he truly believed this crap he would be wearing a mask around ALL those people. Look at Ocasio-Cortez, she was also around about 50 people w/o a mask on until the cameras came out. Then when she thought he cameras were gone, OFF came the mask. Don’t believe me look it up for yourself! This is all a power grab. Did all of you people get picked on in High School? If you believe the masks actually work and it is fair to have YOUR child masked up for 8 hours wearing the same mask that is YOUR choice. Yea, real health breathing in your sweat and saliva for 8 hours a day. However, not my child. My child has a right to enjoy a normal childhood. Not one child has died because of COVID alone. NOT one ! All of the 300 or so child aged 5-18 had multiple underlying issues. More died every year from the common flu (which has surprisingly taken a vacation since 2019 humm) Maybe you all forget 60-90,000 plus die every year from the flu including children. You need to get over yourselves and your mask craziness and allow those of us to live like normal people.

    • Peterh

      August 26, 2021 at 7:30 am

      Hospital staff wear face masks their entire shift because they make a terrific fashion statement! 😣🤥🙄🙄


      Pressley Stutts, the GOP leader who helped reshape the Greenville County Republican Party leadership, died Thursday of complications from COVID-19.

      He had been hospitalized since late July and admitted to the ICU on Aug. 3. From his hospital bed he continued spewing anti vaccination conspiracy theories. He had been on a ventilator at Spartanburg Regional Hospital, suffering from pneumonia, renal failure and blood clots.

      Stutts was a member of the Tea Party and helped found MySCGOP, a conservative organization intended as an alternative to the S.C. Republican Party. As expected, Stutts was a loyal supporter of Donald Trump!

      Next up we fondly remember Phil Valentine, a Nashville-based conservative radio talk show host who had questioned whether it was necessary for all people to get Covid-19 vaccines, died on Saturday, his employer, WWTN Radio, announced on Twitter. Valentine was 61 years old. Valentine was a rabid anti-mask, anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist. He spent his final days on his radio talk show railing against Joe Biden and nonexistent open borders.


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