JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Parents of 15 Florida children filed a lawsuit Friday challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order banning mask mandates in Florida schools. They believe this emergency order will cause the virus to spread even more.
One parent in the suit is out of Alachua County.
Under Florida law, students are entitled to safe schools. Six attorneys feel that’s being threatened amid a spread of the delta variant of COVID-19 and DeSantis’ executive order banning schools from requiring masks in classrooms. The order also threatens to hold state funding for schools.
Jacksonville attorney Gene Nichols, not associated with the lawsuit, points to the Florida State Constitution that puts the power of running schools in local school districts.
“So the real question is going to be as to whether or not the governor has the authority to issue an executive order to trump the Florida constitution, and in essence is what he is currently doing. And that’s what the courts are going to have to decide,” Nichols said.
In June, the legislature passed House Bill 241, which gives parents the sole right to make decisions about their child’s healthcare.
Nichols said typically a governor would use executive authorities in healthcare and emergencies, but said an argument will be is the governor is using the order during a health crisis but is potentially contradicting the fact that it’s health crisis.
One plaintiff out of Alachua County said her child isn’t old enough to get the vaccine and non-masked vaccinated and unvaccinated students in the school is a danger.
“What about the potential of parents sue the system for their children who potentially get sick? It’s going to be very hard to sue a school or a school board or a county if a child were to get sick at a school for either issuing or not issuing mask mandates,” said Nichols. “So it’s not just a matter of my child got sick on campus in order to go after a school board. Under those situations, you’re going to have to prove that the school board not only knew that that individual was sick, not only knew that they were spreading but put children into position. And then on top of that, you’ve got sovereign immunity issues.”
Nichols said he’d be shocked to see that happen, but if it does, districts can use the state constitution to support them.
Nichols said the governor’s office has 20 days after being served to file a response. He believes it will end up in the state Supreme Court where they will decide since it’s a constitutional issue.