Mother and father of Florida college students with disabilities are taking a stand over masks. They’re suing Gov. DeSantis
Will, 10, has Down syndrome and other underlying health conditions but has always been accepted into a general education class at a K-8 public school, his mother Judi Hayes told CNN’s Brianna Keilar.
Now that her son is immunocompromised, she says his health will prevent him from attending school with his peers in the Orange County Public Schools district.
District policy requires masks for students and staff, but parents can easily opt out with a signed note.
“Unsubscribing means that you send your child a simple message with your signature on the first day of school, e.
The district’s mask mandate is valid for 30 days and begins on the first day of school on Tuesday.
In July, as Florida Covid-19 cases increased, DeSantis issued an executive order directing the state’s health and education departments to put in place rules that prevent school masking requirements from being implemented. The order came “in response to several Florida school authorities considering or implementing mask mandates,” the governor’s office said, and is intended to “protect parents’ freedom to choose whether their children wear masks.”
“If we don’t have enough kids wearing masks, it’s effectively unsafe for my child to even go to school,” said Hayes.
“And if he cannot go to school in person, he cannot simply turn to digital learning like most children do because he does not have access to educational support and the opportunity to be trained together with his typical colleagues.”
DeSantis wages a “culture war”
Judi Hayes and a handful of other concerned parents with students with disabilities filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida and DeSantis on Friday. It is the second lawsuit that DeSantis has faced over its ban on the mask mandate.
“It is sensible and reasonable accommodation for a vulnerable child who is immunocompromised or at risk of serious illness to require a public agency to take simple precautions to ensure that the most vulnerable children are safe,” said it in the lawsuit.
“While this proposal shouldn’t be controversial, Governor DeSantis’ executive order calls on school districts to defy their obligations under federal law and harms the children whom disability discrimination laws were made to protect.”
The lawsuit alleges violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.
“I feel like this is another culture war that Governor DeSantis is waging against the people of Florida,” said Hayes.
“Parents like me are scared. School starts in an hour and a half and we have no options, we have no idea what to do and it’s almost like (DeSantis) is actively trying to harm our kids. He definitely is do nothing to protect them. “
CNN has reached out to the Florida governor’s and education commissioner’s offices for comment.
“It’s no different than when a child with a peanut allergy goes to school and says you can’t bring peanuts with you or I’ll get sick,” said Matthew Dietz, Judi Hayes attorney and litigation director at Disability Independence “. Group Inc.
Florida’s second largest school district, Broward County Public Schools, announced in late July that the district would require everyone in its buildings to wear masks to protect against Covid-19. It did so after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines recommending everyone in K-12 schools to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.
The district said it would withdraw its mask mandate after the governor threatened to withhold funding to districts in need of face coverings.
“It scares me, I’ve lived in Florida practically all my life and never thought I’d be in that position, that the governor would be actively trying to harm my child,” said Hayes. “Epidemiology doesn’t work like that, it doesn’t care about your freedom, it doesn’t care about your feelings.”
Will’s 13-year-old brother, who is vaccinated, will go to school, according to his mother.
“He’s probably going to be wearing two masks all day and he’s on a tight schedule and I think that’s reasonably safe as if maybe he’ll be fine,” she said. “I’ll still worry all day: I’ll let him shower as soon as he comes through the door … but it isn’t on the table for Will.”
“It is absolutely unsafe and I cannot with a clear conscience send him into such an environment.”
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