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New state mask rule shuts down challenge brought by school boards

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 3:42 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - Florida school boards bucking the state’s mask mandate ban were supposed to have their day before an administrative judge Friday, but that didn’t happen.

The case was rendered moot because the Department of Health rescinded the rule being challenged and replaced it with another.

The new Department of Health rule is nearly identical to the original mask mandate ban.

Now, school boards who had challenged the original rule are experiencing deja vu.

“Same problem, different rule,” said Alachua County Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon.

Dr. Simon says the school boards are likely to file another administrative challenge in hopes of striking down the new mask mandate ban.

And with federal dollars now backfilling pay check sanctions from the state, the school board isn’t likely to reverse course on its masking policy.

“If anything progresses further, we will still be able to lean on their support,” said Dr. Simon.

The governor has justified the masking policy by saying case rates in mask mandatory and mask optional districts have been the same.

More troubling to school districts is that the new DOH rule also includes new quarantine protocols that allow parents to decide whether to leave their children in school after an exposure if they have no symptoms.

“This new rule, unfortunately I believe, is more risky and problematic than the first rule because this removal of quarantining for asymptomatic individuals and having this be a parental choice,” said Dr. Simon.

Dr. Simon is concerned some parents may abuse their new discretion.

“Easily we could have parents who have decided that their child is asymptomatic, or they’re going to mask it and make them appear asymptomatic, and they’re going to send a child who is shedding the virus into our schools,” said Dr. Simon.

The quarantine changes prompted Congressman and Gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Crist to call for the removal of Florida’s new Surgeon General.

“This is a reckless and baseless endangerment of our entire classrooms and schools across the state,” said Crist.

The governor has said it’s rare a quarantined student actually ends up testing positive and the harms of missing school outweigh the risks.

A state appeals court also rejected a request for a lawsuit brought by parents challenging the mask mandate ban to be expedited to the Florida Supreme Court on Friday.

Instead the Appellate Court will rule on the case, which could be months away.

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