Parental Rights: Parents oppose doctors and school leaders who want to mandate masks

Published: September 3, 2021 6:31 PM EDT
Updated: September 3, 2021 7:11 PM EDT

Parents are continually fighting for their rights to make decisions for their children. This as many doctors and school districts suggest or even mandate what is best for students.

While parents are not backing down, WINK News asks legal experts how far parental rights extend?

Chances are, within the past few months, you’ve heard Florida Governor Ron DeSantis discussing parental rights, especially during the signing of his executive order. “The rights of parents..” “The rights of parents…” “Your individual right as a parent…”

And, if not from the governor, in recent school board meetings, like this one from the School District of Lee County, parents themselves have been discussing their rights.

“The rights of the parents…” “Rights and freedoms…” “Stop treading on my rights…” These are just some of the things parents have said at meetings recently.

But, those rights are not unlimited and the government already limits parental discretion in other areas. This includes laws about childhood immunization and seatbelt wearing.

Ellen Clayton teaches pediatric health policy and law at Vanderbilt University. “They have been upheld over and over and over again.”

Attorney and doctor Ellen Clayton and doctor and attorney Mark Rothstein agree that parents do have rights. But, their argument is, that parents do not have the right to veto a mask mandate.

Clayton wants parents to know this idea is not new. “The idea that somehow this is unique, is really, you know, is really misguided,” said Clayton. “There is no parental right to have your children go to school without a mask.”

Rothstein is the Chairman of law and medicine at the University of Lousiville’s School of Medicine. “A mask is just a piece of cloth. It’s as little an infringement on children, as one can imagine,” he said.

Doctors Clayton and Rothstein presented WINK News with the case law to prove this, namely Prince v. Massachusetts. In this decision, the United States Supreme Court said, “Parents are not free ‘to make martyrs of their children’ by putting them in harm’s way.”

Clayton says the ruling is spot on, especially for what we’re seeing now. “It’s exactly right,” she said. “The idea that… that parents, or actually anybody, is free to expose other people to contagious diseases, just flies in the face of a huge amount of history, a huge amount of, of state law. We just have to we have to change the way we talk about this.”

We will continue to see the debate about parental rights as they pertain to mask mandate continue to play out in Florida. Governor DeSantis says he supports his executive order to ban mask mandates with the parental bill of rights.

Yet, a judge struck down that decision. Now, DeSantis is preparing for an appeal and is confident he will win.