Parents of Duval, Alachua students file petition over school boards’ mask policies

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Parents of students who attend schools in Duval and Alachua counties have filled an emergency petition, asking for changes to be made to their school boards’ mask policies and quarantine procedures.

According to the petition, the petitioners are requesting a court order “requiring Superintendent [Carlee] Simon and SBAC [School Board of Alachua County], and Superintendent [Diana] Greene and SBDC [School Board of Duval County], to comply with the Department’s [of Health] Emergency Rule, particularly to the extent of providing parents with an opt-out to the School Boards’ mask policies at parents’ sole discretion, and allowing parents to send their healthy (non-symptomatic) children to school at their own discretion.”

The petition states the Florida Constitution guarantees parents the right to a high-quality education that is being “burdened, if not outright frustrated, by the School Boards’ unlawful policies.” It further states that the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which was signed into law this year, “guarantees parents the fundamental right to make the decisions about their own children’s’ health care.”

Parents in Duval and Alachua Counties say they want to decide if their children wear masks at school. And they've filed a suit challenging their district's rules.

As of Oct. 1, the Duval County Public Schools have kept face coverings a requirement for students unless the student’s parent or guardian has submitted a medical opt-out form. That form must be signed by a physician, registered nurse or licensed therapist/counselor. The same applies for opt-out forms for students attending Alachua County schools.

According to the law firm, the Health Department’s rules also allow parents of healthy children who do not have symptoms to have their children attend school despite contact tracing. It states that Alachua County’s policy, revised Oct. 1, makes non-symptomatic children stay home for several days until they provide a negative test result.

Alachua County Public Schools’ website notes stay-at home exceptions for close contacts, specifically that a student who was within three to six feet of a student with COVID-19 in a classroom setting is not considered a close contact and will not be directed to stay at home if both students were consistently and correctly wearing masks.

Duval County Public Schools’ protocols require students to quarantine based on whether they’re showing symptoms of COVID-19. Children who do not show symptoms may attend school at the discretion of their parents.

Tracy Pierce, with Duval County Public Schools, said DCPS cannot comment on pending litigation.

Attorney Jeff Childers, the lead attorney on the case, notes that the petition was filed on an emergency basis and hopes the courts will act promptly.

Here is a copy of the document:

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