Parents suing local school boards over mask opt-outs and quarantine procedures

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Some Duval County parents are suing the school board over mask opt-outs and quarantine procedures for their children. The emergency petition was filed in the First District Court of Appeals late Friday night.

It’s a “writ of mandamus,” which lead attorney Jeff Childers said is not used often. It asks the court to order officials to comply with the law.

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The parents who are suing want to have freedom of choice and more discussion on what’s going on in schools.

“Some kids do fine with the masks, and some kids do even better when they wear masks, but a large minority of kids are being harmed in a whole wide range of ways by these mask policies,” Childers said.

The petition says parents want the superintendent and school board members to comply with the state’s emergency rule and allow a parent-only choice to opt-out of mask policies, and allow parents to send healthy (non-symptomatic) children to school.

DCPS’ mask mandate is still a requirement for students unless the parent or guardian has submitted a medical opt-out form signed by a state-licensed medical professional.

One DCPS parent and plaintiff named Gary said his son has reading problems and COVID-19 protocols make learning difficult.

“He went from grade-point average 3.7 or 3.8 to about a 3.2, but probably more concerning for us was his emotional well-being,” Gary said. “He was frustrated with trying to learn with that environment.”

A spokesperson for DCPS said they do not comment on pending litigation.

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A DCPS parent named Michelle told Action News Jax she believes the district has done a good job.

“Nobody really has any perfect answers during this pandemic, it’s ever changing. But I think their kids have been kept safe, and that’s been their priority,” she said.

The petition also wants the district to comply with the Parents Bill of Rights, which empowers parents’ decisions in schools. Childers says the districts are making up their own rules.

“It’s the parents’ choice because they live with the child, and they are better positioned to determine whether the child is being harmed by the mask than anybody,” he said.

The Alachua County school board is also named in the suit.

In DCPS’ last board meeting, they approved a motion to give the Office of General Counsel authority to explore and/or move forward with litigation challenging the new department of health rule issued on Sept. 22.