Orange, Brevard parents file emergency petition against school boards over student mask mandates

ORLANDO, Fla. – An emergency petition has been filed by parents against Orange and Brevard school districts over student mask mandates.

The petition — filed Tuesday night — is asking an appellate court in the First District Court of Appeals to require these schools boards to follow Florida law on mask mandates and opt outs, according to a news release from the AndersonGlenn law firm.

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Earlier this month, an appeals court reinstated the governor’s ban on mask mandates for students earlier this month. There was also an emergency rule revised by the Florida surgeon general to require that parents be able to opt students out of school-mask requirements but includes a change that takes aim at some school districts that only allow opt-outs for documented medical reasons.

Despite that, the Brevard County School Board approved a policy this week that would give parents the choice to opt-out their children from the district’s mask mandate only if COVID-19 spread lessens. Orange County’s school mask requirement with a parent opt-out option runs through Oct. 30.

The parents announced during a virtual news conference Thursday morning they were filing the petition for a “writ of mandamus.” An Orange County parent said his child complains of headaches and dizziness from wearing a mask during class. Others argued the school boards are no longer caring about the concerns of parents.

This announcement came hours before the state Board of Education found eight counties, including Orange and Brevard, not in compliance with state COVID-19 measures.

They are giving the counties 48 hours to comply.

Orange County Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins spoke at the meeting to members of the state Board of Education, along with Commissioner Richard Corcoran, and said regarding their current universal mask policy, “The action was legal. As constitutional officers, we take seriously our charge under Florida Statute 1001.42(8)(a) to protect the health, safety and welfare of students. We believed requiring face masks in our schools was the best way to protect students and staff.”

OCPS’ universal mask mandate is in effect through the end of October.

News 6 reached out to OCPS following the conclusion of the meeting, to ask if they plan to comply. In an email, their media relations manager said, “As the meeting has just concluded, it is too early to say what the district’s plans will be. As it was stated in the statement you received earlier, our positivity rates are declining and we will continue to monitor the situation.”

Brevard County has not issued a statement since the Board of Education’s meeting on Thursday.

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.