Lee County parents protesting the school district's mask mandate. Credit: WINK News

Lee County School Board to Florida Department of Education: Mask mandates will remain

The Lee County School Board has told the Florida Department of Education that the county’s school mask mandates will remain in place. This could cost the schools direct funding for teachers and students.

The board members wrote to Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran: “The SDLC shares the concerns of our governmental leaders and recognize that we want the best for our students while respecting the rights of all of our parents. The decision made by the SDLC strikes that balance. The face-covering guidelines are necessary, reasonable and narrowly tailored to address the health crisis in our local community. The guidelines are essential to keeping schools open and operational under exigent circumstances.”

Read the full letter here.

A Florida circuit judge ruled Gov. DeSantis overstepped his authority by banning mask mandates, which DeSantis is appealing, and an emergency stay meant to force schools back into not having mask mandates was in order. The schools faced a tough decision: Abide by DeSantis’ rule or miss out on needed money.

“Really, it’s kind of a fork in the road where there’s some decision to be made by the school board, ” said Charles Gallagher, an attorney with Gallagher & Associates Law Firm. “And what we’ve seen across the board is most school boards have said, ‘We’re not asking for the money, we’re in for the safety of kids; do what you want to do, we’re going to go ahead and do things that are most appropriate and safe and prudent for our students and their safety.'”

WINK News reached out to all the school board members beforehand for comment on how they might vote in this decision. One board member, who wants to remain anonymous in this situation, says, “Just know this: It’s not and will never be about the money.”

In regard to the case against DeSantis’ executive order banning mask mandates, Judge John C. Cooper says there’s no doubt that we’re in a pandemic, adding “We have children who can’t be protected by a vaccination.”

According to Judge Cooper, there will be no harm to the defendant if the stay is set aside, adding it will be for a short period until an appeals court rules. This essentially makes Governor Ron DeSantis’ mask mandate null and void unless the State wins in appeals court.

The School District of Lee County spokesman said, “Today’s ruling means the FLDOE is enjoined from enforcement against the School District of Lee County for the mask requirement. We will continue to follow the applicable cases as they move through the court system. For now, nothing has changed and the mask requirement remains in place.”

Click to access Letter-to-Commissioner-of-Education-Regarding-Face-Coverings.pdf

Reporter:Michael Hudak
Writer:Joey Pellegrino
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