wjxt logo

Lawsuit challenging Duval County Schools’ mask mandate delayed over questions of jurisdiction

Plaintiffs have until Oct. 26 to file new complaint clarifying whether they’re suing under state or federal law

A group of parents and students brought the lawsuit against the Duval County School Board claiming the mask mandate violates a state law known as the "Parents Bill of Rights." The issue identified by the court was that the plaintiff's lawsuit is attempting to sue under state law -- in a federal court.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A hearing in a federal lawsuit challenging Duval County Public Schools mask mandate was delayed Friday after a conference the previous day identified some jurisdictional issues.

A group of parents and students brought the lawsuit against the Duval County School Board claiming the mask mandate violates a state law known as the “Parents Bill of Rights.” The issue identified by the court was that the plaintiff’s lawsuit is attempting to sue under state law -- in a federal court.

“The Court held a status conference at which the Court discussed with the parties whether federal question jurisdiction was properly invoked,” an order by District Judge Timothy Corrigan said. “Plaintiffs asked for leave to file an amended complaint to either clearly allege federal claims or to allege actions solely under state law.”

The group of parents and students who brought the case also claim that students are being harmed by the mask mandate, citing “clinical and sub-clinical harms, including heat exhaustion, headaches, vomiting, and anxiety.” The plaintiffs also claim they’ve been subjected to intimidation and threats “due to the exercise of their personal beliefs.”

The district filed a motion to dismiss the case, describing it as a “shotgun compliant,” a term that refers to the legal equivalent of throwing a number of separate arguments up in the air in hopes that one of them lands.

One example the district’s attorneys cited was the repeated arguments by the group of plaintiffs that masks have no effect on the spread of COVID-19, while also accusing the mask mandate of depriving children of “their opportunity to encounter COVID-19 naturally at school and develop lifelong natural immunity to the virus and its variants.”

The district’s lawyers also claim that the DCSB is entitled to sovereign immunity from the claims that the mask mandate is violating state law -- and that school boards can’t be liable for operational negligence when “policy-making and planning level functions” are at issue.

Corrigan gave the plaintiffs until Oct. 26 to file a new complaint with more clarity on whether they’re suing under state or federal law. The DCSB will then have until Oct. 29 to respond to that new motion.


About the Author:

Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.