TAMPA - Hillsborough County Schools are pushing back against the Florida Department of Education and standing by their mandatory mask policy.
What You Need To Know
- In letter, the district states they believe they are complying with both the governor and state law with their current mask mandate
- Currently, a student must have a medical opt-out to be permitted to go maskless at school
- The state says county is in violation and has threatened to withhold funding
- BELOW: School system's letter
In a three-page letter submitted to the state just before 5 p.m. Wednesday (you can read in its entirety below), the district stated that the mandatory mask policy is working and that since implementing the Emergency Rule on August 18, student positivity for COVID-19 has decreased by 23%.
Isolations and quarantines have also dropped by 15%, the letter states.
Throughout the letter, the district states they believe they are complying with both the governor and state law with their current mask mandate.
“While the rule requires schools to permit parents or legal guardians to opt-out on behalf of their student, the rule does not condition or limit the parameters the school may apply for such opt-outs,” it reads in part.
Currently, a student must have a medical opt-out to be permitted to go maskless at school.
Judge John Cooper ruled Friday that the governor’s rule is unconstitutional, and law permits school boards to adopt policies that can include a face mask mandate. But, he has not formally submitted that ruling.
The Department of Education released this statement Wednesday in response to the district’s decision:
“Today, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody issued an advisory opinion in response to an inquiry from the Suwannee County School District as to whether the district could legally depart from state law and emergency rule to mandate masks in schools.
The Attorney General found “it is my opinion that the District must comply with Rule 64DER21-12 and any other applicable authorities unless and until the judiciary declares them invalid.
The judiciary has not declared the rule to be invalid, and as such, this advisory opinion clearly states that multiple school districts are breaking the law by violating parents’ rights. Today, the Department is urging every school district that has mandated masks without an opt out to promptly change its policies and comply with Florida’s rules and laws.”
In a written letter last week, the Florida Department of Education gave the Hillsborough County School District until 5 p.m. Wednesday to submit a plan to remove their mask mandate and come into compliance with the governor’s order. Failure to do so could result in penalties such as school board member’s salaries being withheld.
There’s no word on what action the DOE plans to take.