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Florida parents sue school board over student mask requirement

UPDATED: Sun., Nov. 1, 2020

By Kelcie Willis The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Four parents in Florida are suing the Sarasota County School Board over a mandate that requires students to wear face masks amid the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of face masks in spaces where social distancing of at least 6 feet isn’t possible. The CDC has specific recommendations for masks in schools.

NBC News reported parents Amy Cook, Gustavo Collazo, Nicholas Eastman and Catherine Gonzales filed the suit. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported the 59-page lawsuit was filed Oct. 21 in a Sarasota County court. The board is listed as a defendant.

The suit followed the board’s approval of a proposal that extended an emergency 90-day mask order that requires students to wear masks most of the day.

According to the parents, forcing children to wear masks denies them their right to an equal education.

The suit invokes the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case, in which ruled racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional, even if the facilities are “separate but equal.”

Regional coverage

At The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, we focus primarily on Georgia news, but we also like to provide readers with regional coverage of the Southeast. We cover stories that have relevance and interest to our readers and impact our region, especially in Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina and Mississippi.

“The policy of mandatory facemask wear for students of tender years leaves parents with little choice: subject their children to a policy that is not in the best interest of their child, or to be compelled to home school their children in a manner that is both separate and unequal, and also results in additional harms unrelated to COVID-19,” the complaint says.

“Most parents cannot make such a choice, given their own work requirements,” the lawsuit reads. “This ‘Sofie Choice’ is being foisted upon the citizens of Sarasota County in an irrational way, in violation of the Florida Constitution.”

The suit appears to be referring “Sophie’s Choice,” the title of a famous book and movie in which a mother must make a life-and-death decision involving her children.

The complaint says parents, not the school board, should be making decisions for children.

Sarasota County School Board Chair Caroline Zucker declined to comment on the suit.

Shirley Brown, the board’s vice chair, told NBC News the board is following CDC guidelines.

“The mask isn’t so much to protect you, as to protect others from you,” Brown said. “The masks, I think, are helping us keep our numbers down in the schools. It can’t just be optional.”

The suit was filed with funds from a GoFundMe organized by Cook, the Herald-Tribune reported. It has surpassed its $11,000 goal.


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