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Federal lawsuit seeks to squash Palm Beach County school mask mandate

Attorneys for parents of Palm Beach County students say 'unlawful' mandate violates constitutional rights
Children wear masks on first day of school at Sessums Elementary School in Riverview, Fla., Aug. 10, 2021
Posted at 5:41 PM, Sep 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-13 17:41:38-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A federal lawsuit has been filed against the Palm Beach County School Board seeking declaratory and permanent injunctive relief in opposition to the mask mandate.

The lawsuit was filed Sunday on behalf of multiple parents and students in Palm Beach County.

"Mask mandates for children in schools are not supported by science and are arbitrary and capricious measures," attorneys for the Florida Civil Rights Coalition said in their lawsuit.

The lawsuit names eight parents of students attending schools operated by the School District of Palm Beach County.

They are:

  • Dustin Lloyd, the father of an 11-year-old student and two 10-year-old students at Adison Mizner Elementary School in Boca Raton
  • William O'Connor Jr., the father of a 10-year-old student at Cypress Trails Elementary School in Royal Palm BeachAmber Santamarina, the mother of a 6-year-old student at Pierce Hammock Elementary School in Loxahatchee
  • Shana Borowski, the mother of an 11-year-old student at Independence Middle School in Jupiter
  • Emily Matchica, the mother of a 6-year-old student at Limestone Creek Elementary School in Jupiter
  • Joyce Van Etten, the mother of a 16-year-old student at Santaluces Community High School in Lantana
  • Lindsay Pasquale, the mother of a 12-year-old student at Boca Raton Middle School and a 17-year-old student at Boca Raton Community High School
  • Victor Nin, the father of a 13-year-old student at Independence Middle School

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that the school district's "unlawful" mask mandate violates the rights of the parents and students.

Student wearing mask sits in algebra class at Barbara Coleman Senior High School, Aug. 23, 2021
A student sits in an Algebra class at Barbara Coleman Senior High School on the first day of school, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in Miami Lakes, Fla.

The lawsuit claims the parents "expressly withheld consent" by submitting opt-out forms as requested by the School District of Palm Beach County before the start of the 2021-22 school year.

It goes on to say that unless relief is granted, children will be "subjected to discipline, including in school and out of school suspensions, loss of privileges and extracurricular activities for refusal to comply" with the mandate.

Superintendent Mike Burke and Palm Beach County School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The Coconut Creek-based Florida Civil Rights Coalition is the same group that filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach County circuit court challenging a countywide mask mandate last year to prevent the spread of coronavirus. A Palm Beach County judge ruled against the plaintiffs in that case, but the Florida Civil Rights Coalition appealed the decision. The county has since repealed its mask mandate and is arguing that the case should be dismissed.

"Superintendent Burke recently asked the community to send him 'lawyers, guns and money,'" the Florida Civil Rights Coalition said in a statement. "As requested, we are sending him lawyers."

The School District of Palm Beach County wouldn't comment, citing pending litigation.