Parents suing Lee County Schools say mask policy is unconstitutional

Posted at 6:54 PM, Sep 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-22 18:54:38-04

LEE COUNTY — Parents are suing the Lee County School District for requiring students to wear masks in school.

They say the policy violates their children’s constitutional rights. The Florida Constitution guarantees that every student can have a free and uniform public education. That word “uniform” means it has to be equal; you can’t give advantages to any students. But the parents in the lawsuit say virtual learning is not equal to learning in-person, and forcing some kids to choose that option is unconstitutional.

We spoke with one of the parents in the lawsuit, Daniella Dye, when she was out protesting the school district’s mask policy back in July.

“We have consulted with out pediatrician and our doctors, two different doctors, on two different occasions to find out what's best for our family. So we may an educated decision and the decision should be left to the families themselves," said Dye during the July protest.

Her attorney, Patrick Leduc, says every one of the four families he represents has a child that is learning virtually because they can’t wear a mask for seven to eight hours a day. He says that violates Florida's uniformity clause, and may even violate Federal law as well.

“E-learning is not a uniform system of education. In fact, e-learning is separate and unequal. E-learning violates Brown vs. Board of Education that says that separate but equal is inherently unequal," said Leduc.

We also spoke with a Constitutional scholar at Florida Gulf Ciast University about the case. Professor Pamella Seay said uniformity isn’t the only Constitutional requirement for a school district.

“That safe environment is also one of the things required under the Constitution of the State of Florida. So providing that safe environment is why they’re mandating the mask," said Seay.

Seay said she thinks the lawsuit will likely fail in court, but Leduc said they’re pushing ahead, because he also wants to make a point about checking government overreach, even in an emergency.

“This lawsuit is about empowering parents to make decisions for their children, because parents know their children, and love their children more than the school board does," said Leduc.

We did reach out to the school district, but were told it will not comment on any pending litigation. There isn’t any time frame right now for the case to be heard, and with courts backed up with cases, it could be a long time before we know how a judge decides to rule on the issue.