ACPS dismisses effort to stop mask enforcement

Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) received a letter Wednesday demanding that the district immediately abandon its mask mandate policy within 24 hours or be faced with an emergency petition.

A spokesperson told Mainstreet Daily News the district has no plans to comply.

The document was sent from Jeff Childers, an attorney representing a group of parents who have children within the school district. He wrote that ACPS and Superintendent Carlee Simon are unlawfully defying the Florida Department of Health’s guidance policy that allows parents and students an opt-out from the district’s masking policy.

On July 30, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order directing the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) to enter rulemaking in collaboration with the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) to protect parents’ freedom to choose whether their children wear masks. Alachua County is one of a handful of school districts in the state that have required masks anyway.

“Obviously we are aware of the letter and working with our attorneys on a response,” said ACPS spokesperson Jackie Johnson, adding that the district will keep current mask requirement policies in place. She declined to say how many students school officials have sent home for not wearing masks.

Litigation over mask policies continues, but multiple courts have ruled in favor of the DeSantis administration in recent weeks—a fact Childers alluded to in his letter.

“The District is badly out of step with the law, the state, the science, and the facts, and it is becoming more isolated and anachronistic by the day,” he wrote. “The District’s Masking Policy interferes with and frustrates my clients’ rights to a free high-quality education and is, therefore, unconstitutional.”

New Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo issued an emergency rule on Sept. 22 that continued the state’s mask opt-out policy. It also allows parents to decide if their asymptomatic children should quarantine after exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

In the letter Childers also took issue with the ACPS quarantine policy.

“The District’s policy of requiring that students quarantine after exposure to a COVID-19 positive person thwarts the Emergency Rule by removing asymptomatic children from in-person learning and depriving parents of their fundamental rights to direct their children’s education and healthcare decisions, as well as their constitutional right to receive a free, high-quality education,” he wrote.

Childers is also representing more than 200 City of Gainesville employees in a lawsuit against the city over required employee vaccinations, which was halted last week when an Alachua County judge issued an emergency order barring the city from enforcing its mandate.

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