A group of parents has filed suit against the Hillsborough County School Board in hopes of challenging the district’s masking policy.
The 39 parents who filed suit against the Board and Superintendent Addison Davis argue that by maintaining a policy that only allows for a medical opt-out to the district’s mandatory mask policy, the school district is violating the Parents’ Bill of Rights Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law in June. The plaintiffs also cite DeSantis’ executive order banning school districts from implementing mask mandates. They want a judge to overturn the order.
The school district currently has a mandatory mask mandate, which students can be excused from if they provide a verified medical exemption. That policy is in effect until Oct. 15, but the School Board will meet next Tuesday, where it will have a chance to reevaluate the policy.
“The data suggests the requirement is working, but the board believes more time is needed to ensure the ongoing health, safety, and welfare of students, teachers, and staff,” a press release from the district reads.
The release cites districtwide COVID-19 case numbers, which have been on the decline in September after peaking on Aug. 23 with 601 student cases. The district reported a 54% decrease in student cases from Aug. 23.
But, the plaintiffs argue the order is still in violation of the law, despite the medical opt-out, which the complaint describes as “burdensome” and “an undue and unfair expense on parents” which serves “no legitimate government purpose.” The complaint also notes the policy does not allow “exemptions for ‘religious’ reasons.”
The complaint also says the mandate “fails to protect children with disabilities or health conditions who would be harmed by certain protocols such as (a) face masking requirement.”
While the complaint does not detail complications face masks could cause, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that “most people with underlying medical conditions can and should wear masks,” including those with asthma. The CDC also dismisses the claim provided in the suit that masks increase CO2 intake.
The suit was filed on Sept. 22 in the 13th Judicial Circuit. The Hillsborough County School Board has not yet filed a response to the challenge.
The State Board of Education will also have an emergency meeting Oct. 7 to talk masks and COVID-19. Eleven school districts’ compliance with the emergency state rules on COVID-19 policies, including Hillsborough, will be discussed at that hearing.