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SWFL school mandates and possible legal actions

Posted at 9:49 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 22:53:32-04

FORT MYERS — Back to school is right around the corner for many public schools here in Southwest Florida.

In addition to backpacks and notebooks, masks are also on the list of items your child will need if they're heading back to class in person.

But if a Tampa-based lawyer and a group of local parents have their way, that mask requirement will be removed.

They're parents who say they're not anti-mask but pro-choice.

They want to decide if their kids wear a mask when school starts next Monday. And they're talking to a Florida lawyer about their legal options.

"I don't bring a lawsuit unless I believe there is a basis in doing that," Tampa based lawyer Patrick Leduc said.

The basis, in this case, is mandatory masks at schools.

The Tampa basked lawyer has filed suits in Brevard and Hillsborough counties. He's also in talks with these Southwest Florida parents to potentially file suits here.

"If you don't want your children exposed to people that aren't wearing masks, I am okay with that, that is your choice. That is fine," Ashley Pruitt said.

"But there are teachers and students who want to have in-person instruction, without a mask, and why can't we facilitate those needs?"

Leduc says the mandates are legally questionable for a few reasons.

"We're interfering with the parent's right to determine whether or not their child should have to wear a medical device unregulated by a person who is not a medical professional," Leduc said.

He also says it's unfair to kids who will struggle to wear one.

"The whole idea is that there's some kids that no matter how hard they try, they can't wear a mask," Leduc said.

Some Florida districts are making exceptions for these students.

People have also encouraged parents who don't like the mask mandate to keep their kids home. But Leduc says E-learning and in-person learning are apples and oranges.

"You cannot compare a child that's in school with a child that's getting e-learning. It's separate and unequal," Leduc said.

A Hillsborough County judge recently denied Leduc's lawsuit request, but he says the case is far from over. He also has a hearing in the Brevard case set for Monday.

We have reached out to the school district for comment, and they said they are waiting to hear Leduc's formal statement on the issue before giving a statement.