Florida Today | By Bailey Gallion | September 16, 2021
Conservative parent group Moms for Liberty is raising money to sue the Brevard County School Board over the district’s mandatory mask policy.
The group alerted members in an email Wednesday that it had obtained legal counsel and intended to raise $15,000 to file an emergency injunction against the School Board. As of noon Thursday, the fundraising campaign had gathered over $13,000.
“Under the Parental Bill of Rights, it explicitly states that parents have the right to make healthcare decisions for our children, which means we decide whether our children should or should not wear a mask for 6 to 8 hours per day during school hours,” reads the campaign description.
Ashley Hall, Brevard chair of Moms for Liberty, said last week that the group had been considering legal action and that she was sending her child to school unmasked in order to document the district’s response for a potential lawsuit.
“I am going to make them kick my child out of school,” Hall said last Friday. “They’re going to have to kick me out.”
Hall and the legal counsel representing the parents did not respond to a request for comment before press time Thursday.
School Board Chair Misty Belford had not yet heard of the campaign when reached by FLORIDA TODAY Wednesday.
“I respect their stance, and we’ll see where it goes,” Belford said.
The School Board will discuss whether to extend the current mask mandate at a meeting Tuesday. The board voted 3-2 on Aug. 30 to implement a 30-day mask mandate in response to rising cases and quarantines within the district.
Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Cocoran has notified the School Board and district that board member salaries will be withheld if the mask mandate remains in place. Belford wrote to Cocoran in response last week that the district’s mask mandate was necessary to protect students’ rights to safe education, and therefore justified under Florida law.
So far, 13 districts have defied DeSantis’s executive order.
The Brevard parents’ lawsuit won’t be the first to challenge a Florida school district’s mask mandate.
Greg Anderson and Nick Whitney, attorneys for the Brevard parents, are also representing parents in a case against the Duval County School Board for its mask mandate. In a lawsuit filed Sept. 2, parents of nearly two dozen Duval County children allege that their children suffered physical and mental conditions due to mandatory masks, and some say they’ve been unable to obtain medical exemptions from doctors.
The suit claims the School Board violated the constitution. The parents sought an emergency injunction against the mandate, but the Duval policy nonetheless went into effect five days later.
A lawsuit was filed by eight Palm Beach parents in federal court Sunday challenging the Palm Beach County School District’s mask mandate. The suit argues that despite being their use being recommended in schools by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, masks are not proven to prevent COVID-19 and the mandate is “arbitrary and capricious.”
Other parents have sued in favor of mask mandates, saying they are necessary to protect their children’s constitutional rights.
A federal judge in Miami declined to block DeSantis’ ban on mandates on Wednesday, saying the parents who filed the suit had not pursued solutions within the school system before taking the case to court. The parents had argued that their disabled children, who attend school in eight school districts, were being denied their right to equal access to education.
Parents in a separate, similar suit have requested their case be fast-tracked to the Florida Supreme Court. A Leon County circuit judge ruled Aug. 29 in favor of the parents, saying school districts were required under the Florida Constitution to provide safe schools for children, and a mask mandate was a reasonable measure to accomplish that. DeSantis appealed the ruling.
The U.S. Department of Education launched an investigation on Friday into whether the ban on mask mandates violates the rights of students with disabilities.