TALLAHASSEE, Fl. — A handful of Tampa Bay parents are suing Governor Ron DeSantis and the State Board of Education over the state’s ban on mask mandates in schools.
Monday, August 23, was the first day of the 3-day hearing and a judge could make a decision this week, which would impact all 67 school districts in Florida and allow them to incorporate mandatory mask mandates without fear of penalties or losing state funding.
On Monday, Leon County Judge John Cooper heard from doctors talking about how incredibly contagious the Delta variant is and that for every one sick person they can infect 6-8 others. The question Judge Cooper will have to determine is if a ban on mandatory masks is unconstitutional.
Kristen Thompson of Gainesville is suing on behalf of her 7-year-old daughter who is wheelchair-bound and breathes with a trach tube. Her daughter can’t wear a mask and Thompson says her life depends on others wearing one.
“As a parent, my first responsibility is to my children. Ever since Peyton was born her mortality has been front and center on our minds. 50% of people with her condition pass away in the first week, 90% pass away in the first year. The fact she is 7 years old is a miracle and I want to enact every mitigation out there that’s possible,” she explained.
Tampa mom Amy Nell is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. She signs her son out of school every day for lunch fearful that he’ll contract COVID while eating in the school’s cafeteria.
“We don’t want kids to get sick. Losing a kid is a parent’s worst nightmare. While I understand the risk of that is relatively low, there are a lot of things we don’t know about long-term symptoms. There’s a lot we don’t know so it’s worrisome,” she explained.
Attorneys representing the state argue every parent should be able to make their own choices regarding face masks. They argue masks are physically and psychologically harmful to kids and that parents have the right to choose if their students should wear one.
“Masking also exasperates the chance of a child experiencing anxiety and depression which are also at pandemic levels,” said Michael Abel, an attorney representing the Governor and Board of Education.
The hearing is expected to go until Wednesday, August 25 and a judge is expected to make a decision this week.