BY JENNIFER CABRERA
Twenty-two parents have filed an Emergency Petition for Writ of Mandamus in the First District Court of Appeal, asking the court to order the Alachua County School Board (SBAC) and Duval County School Board (SBDC) to follow the Florida Department of Health’s emergency rules on COVID-19 quarantine policies and parental opt-out of masking policies.
The Petition, filed by Jeff Childers of Gainesville and Nick Whitney of Jacksonville, was filed late yesterday and begins with the assertion that “School boards have a statutory duty to obey state law. They may not simply ignore a law they dislike or even challenge its validity… Yet despite this well-entrenched doctrine, the [SBAC and SBDC], along with Carlee Simon, as Superintendent of SBAC, and Diana Greene, as Superintendent of SBDC… have decided that they will operate independently from the state government and official guidance from the Florida Department of Health… in its official capacity and become laws unto themselves.”
The Petition cites numerous sources to show that the School Boards and superintendents “understand that they are acting unlawfully,” including letters to State agencies, written opinion pieces, and media appearances.
A Writ of Mandamus can be filed with the Court of Appeal because that Court has jurisdiction under the Florida Constitution and the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. A Writ of Mandamus is used to command public officials to “perform ministerial duties that they have a clear legal duty to perform.”
The Petition asks the Court to require the superintendents and School Boards to comply with the emergency rule, “particularly to the extent of providing parents with an opt-out to the School Boards’ mask policies at parents’ sole discretion, and allowing parents to send their healthy (non-symptomatic) children to school at their own discretion.”
The conclusion of the Petition argues that it is “a recipe for chaos” if school boards can simply ignore State rules and guidance: “In essence, under their own authority, the School Boards have created their own, independent departments of health, competitive and–in their view–superior to the constitutional Department of Health. This is a dangerous precedent, if left to stand.”
The Emergency Petition for Writ of Mandamus can be read here.