ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County is the 10th district in the state to adopt a mask mandate and defy state law.
The new policy goes into effect on Monday and lasts for at least 60 days. A doctor’s note is required for students to opt-out of the mandate.
Orange County mother Judi Hayes calls the mandate a win.
“It’s a huge win. This isn’t the war, but this is a battle,” Hayes said. “It really does feel like they’re finally listening to the parents, they’re listening to the data, they’re looking at the community spread and transmission and we’re finally taking some reasonable mitigation steps to help.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference in The Villages on Wednesday. He said districts with mask mandates are violating state law and parents’ rights to decide if their child should wear a mask.
“We think the parents are best situated to make that decision and if these entities are going to violate state law and take away parents’ rights, obviously there are, it’s the way it works, there are consequences for that and there will continue to be more,” DeSantis said.
This comes as a federal lawsuit moves forward. Hayes, along with families from across Florida with special needs children, claims the state isn’t providing safe schools with the governor’s mask ban and not allowing districts to offer hybrid learning models.
The governor’s attorney responded to the suit claiming a preliminary injunction should be denied because parents can work with their schools to come up with solutions for the students’ education and health needs.
Hayes said she couldn’t comment on the lawsuit, but said she is glad the district is taking steps to protect students.
“At least it sounds like we’re doing the right thing and we’re encouraging others to do the right thing,” she said.
The attorney representing the families in the federal lawsuit is asking a judge if he can reply to all of the defendants’ responses in one filing instead of individually, which is out of the ordinary. The attorney has a week to file his response and a hearing could be scheduled afterward.