Duval County

Parents file lawsuit against Episcopal School of Jacksonville over its mask policy

Episcopal School of Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Parents of Episcopal School of Jacksonville students have filed a lawsuit against the school over its mask usage policy, according to documents filed in court on Thursday.

In the suit, the group of parents allege that the school and the Head of School, Adam Greene, in his official capacity, have “taken it upon themselves to usurp the fundamental rights of the parent to make medical and healthcare-related decisions that the parent determines that are in the best interests of the minor child.”

READ: New COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment units deployed in Jacksonville

The parents take issue with the update to Episcopal’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Update, which was issued on Aug. 6, as it relates to requiring unvaccinated students to wear a mask, which the suit claims “meets the definition of a medical device.”

The lawsuit states:

“The Update requires only unvaccinated students to wear facial masks when in classrooms and indoor settings on Episcopal’s campuses.

“The Update does not contain any exemptions for unvaccinated children in situations where: (1) the child is simply too young to obtain the vaccine in accordance with current federal guidelines, i.e., children aged 3 through 11; (2) the child has not obtained a vaccine because the parent, in the exercise of his or her fundamental right to parent his or her child, has determined not to vaccinate the child for medical and/or healthcare-related reasons; or (3) the child has tested positive for COVID-19 and the parent, in the exercise of his or her fundamental right to parent his or her child, has determined not to vaccinate the child for at least ninety (90) days because it would be medically inadvisable to do so.”

STORY: State of Florida requests 300 ventilators, sends some to local hospitals for COVID-19 patient care

Episcopal’s COVID-19 Health and Safety update states that the “one exception” to its mask wearing requirement is that parents of fully vaccinated students “may request that their child not wear a mask” and need to contact the school nurse to opt their child out of wearing a mask.

All of the children of the parents listed in the suit “have not received the full battery of COVID-19 vaccinations.”

The suit requests in part that the court “declare that Episcopal’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Update, as it requires unvaccinated students to wear masks on campus, is invalid as a matter of law.”

READ: Ware County Schools closing schools until September due to COVID-19 outbreak

Action News Jax received the following statement from Episcopal School of Jacksonville:

“Episcopal School of Jacksonville considers protecting the health and safety of our students as its highest priority. Episcopal also believes that having children in school is essential to their learning and growth. Our protocols stem from these two guiding principles.

Working closely with our COVID-19 medical advisory team and following guidance from national health organizations’ best practices to 1) ensure children’s health during the pandemic and 2) limit quarantines, Episcopal conveyed to its parent body on August 6 the decision to require masks for all students and teachers for a temporary 30-day period beginning with the opening of school.

Our guidelines provided an opt-out of mask-wearing for students and employees who are vaccinated. Parents and employees who make the choice to opt out were given instructions on how to proceed (see esj.org/covid)

As an independent, faith-based school, Episcopal is not subject to the Governor’s Executive Order 21-175 or the Florida Department of Health’s emergency rules for public schools.

Episcopal will continue to closely monitor local health conditions and will modify protocols as the situation in our community warrants.”

Action News Jax is working to reach out to the parties named in the suit for further comment.

STORY: Assistant principal at Arlington Middle School dies unexpectedly, school officials say