Q&A – Recourse For Parents & Students Over Lawless School Mask Mandates
Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.
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Today’s entry: Brian, I’ve wanted to thank you for your willingness to publicly speak up against the school districts who’ve been breaking the law with the mask mandates. As a concerned parent who is mostly concerned with the loss of learning associated with wearing masks, you’ve been the only one I’ve come across who has reported on and presented the studies demonstrating learning loss associated with forced masking. Now that the state appears to have won the issue in the courts once and for all my question is this. Shouldn’t there be some type of recourse for parents who had their rights wrongfully taken away by school boards who unlawfully imposed mask mandates and for students who’ve been negatively impacted in the classroom?
Bottom Line: The answer is yes. Our legal system provides a path for potential recourse in situations such as these. Before discussing those possibilities let’s reset what’s happened here. As of July 1st, Florida’s Parents Bill of Rights is law. The law provides parents specified oversight over decisions that impact their children while at school. Prior to the start of the current school year the Florida Department of Health in conjunction with the Florida Department of Education made a determination that the Parents Bill of Rights afforded parents the lawful ability to exempt their children from mask mandates which may be imposed by school districts. Of course, numerous school districts across the state including Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach County thought otherwise and imposed mask mandates without parental opt-outs which have led to the showdowns between the state, the school districts and at times the federal government.
While the contention of offending school districts has consistently been an assertion that the Parents Bill of Rights allows school districts to ignore parental rights on this issue, due to an emergency provision in the law allowing school districts extra discretion, the Florida Board of Education and the courts have consistently found otherwise. The most recent of which came on Friday when Administrative Judge Brian Newman threw out the latest lawsuit challenging the state on its school mask policy brought by the Alachua, Broward, Duval, Leon, Miami-Dade and Orange County school districts. According to Judge Newman: The evidence admitted in this case established that the emergency rule opt-out provisions strike the right balance by ensuring that the protocols that govern the control of COVID-19 in schools go no further than what is required to keep children safe and in school. This is now the third legal challenge against the state, and parent’s rights, which has been decided in favor of the state and parent’s rights. It’s safe to say it’s decided. It’s safe to say that offending school districts have broken the law for months now and in so doing have violated the rights of parents like yourself and have potentially harmed children, like yours, in the process. In terms of recourse that’s key.
You cited the studies with which I've referenced throughout this debate. The ones I’ve discussed are accredited studies which were posted on the National Institutes of Health’s website. As you’ve likely heard me say, all related studies have indicated varying degrees of the same issues with forced masking in education. At every age and every level of education (literally from kindergarten through med school), teachers are less effective at teaching and students are less effective at learning. Then there are the health implications. One of the studies on the NIH’s website found the following:
- 81% of children were embarrassed to wear a mask at school
- 49% of children experienced headaches associated with wearing masks
- 45% experienced speaking difficulties
- 45% experienced mood changes
- 28% experienced impaired breathing/discomfort
In addressing the question of potential recourse, the key from a legal perspective would be for parents to demonstrate harm having been done to their children via the illegal forced masking by the school districts. This could come in the form of learning loss. For example, has your child’s educational performance clearly suffered in a way you could demonstrate in court? Or has your child clearly suffered from any of the health maladies I just outlined? If you could clearly demonstrate that type of harm, you could be well positioned to pursue legal action against your school district. This would be the type of case which would be a candidate for class action status with families similarly impacted from across the state joining in.
I’m not one who’s quick to suggest legal action is the best action and there’s nothing fun or easy about the prospect of legally challenging school districts, however I do feel this battle is one worth fighting for two key reasons. First due to the principal of this issue and second for accountability. Right along my biggest concern hasn’t been the loss of learning or potential health concerns of students, though they are concerns. My biggest concern has been about the school districts themselves. How absurd is it that the body which is supposed to be educating our children about laws has used our tax dollars to break them? And then to repeatedly use more of our tax dollars to legally fight to attempt to continue to violate them? And if they’re not held accountable based on this blatant abuse of power and are otherwise allowed off the hook, what’s to stop them from breaking other laws going forward? Like for example the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools?
I do believe in choosing one’s battles rather than attempting to fight them all. This in my mind is one worth fighting because of the longer-term implications which have nothing to do with masks but everything to do with what is or isn’t being taught in the classroom.