SARASOTA — A group of parents have formally filed a lawsuit in the Sarasota County courts against the Sarasota County School Board, questioning the constitutionality of the district’s mask mandate.
The district’s policy has been an issue of contention in recent months, with the last two board meetings hearing over two hours of public comment regarding the mandate.
The lawsuit argues the School Board violated Florida’s open records Sunshine Law in implementing the mask policy, stating the district didn’t allow for public comment and or advertise publicly that the policy was being introduced.
Parents Amy Cook and Gustavo Collazo, who have two children, argue the mask mandate violates their rights under the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
They also state that their children have suffered anxiety and adverse physical reactions as a result of wearing masks. They state their children both have severe allergies.
Cook started a GoFundMe to raise funds to bring the lawsuit to court, which raised more than $11,300.
Four parents are cited in the 59-page lawsuit, filed Oct. 21, citing concerns for their children’s physical health and emotional wellbeing.
The mask policy allows for medical exceptions with a note from a doctor, in which case the student would be allowed to wear a face shield, unless they have an additional medical exception.
Parent Nicholas Eastman states, “(He) believes they have the child’s best interest in mind, and knows better than the school board what is best for the child,” according to the lawsuit.
“Wearing a mask protects others around you. Our children are our most precious possession. Their health and safety should come above politics and opinion,” said Jennifer Sholi, a parent of a Booker High student and Booker High alum.
“These suggestions of constitutional violations are based on political agenda, pseudoscience, and personal opinion,” she added.
The lawsuit alleges:
• It is a violation of the Constitution by failing to offer children a free public education. “Imposing a requirement to receive that education that serves no rational basis violates this requirement.”
• Offering a virtual education alternative, which forces a parent to stay home with a minor child violates Article IX of the Florida Constitution. A virtual education is separate and unequal, citing Brown v. Board of Education.
• Requiring students to wear face masks as a medical device interferes with a parent’s right to determine medical treatments for their child.
• The School Board policy giving the superintendent power to establish guidelines for face masks violates the Florida Sunshine Law, because it was done without public comment or prior notice.
Board attorney Art Hardy was not able to comment on pending litigation