A group of parents who filed a lawsuit against the Sarasota County School Board for its mandatory face mask policy dropped the case, according to Tampa civil rights attorney Patrick Leduc.
Leduc represented the plaintiffs in the case, Sarasota County parents Amy Cook, Gustavo Collazo, Nicholas Eastman and Catherine Gonzales, who filed the lawsuit in October in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Sarasota after the board extended the district’s mask mandate for students, staff and teachers in a 3-2 vote.
They decided to voluntarily dismiss the case Tuesday ahead of a hearing scheduled at 3:30 p.m., the day after Leduc learned another court had ruled against the plaintiffs he represented in a similar case against the Hillsborough County School District.
The Sarasota School Board had a pending motion to dismiss the case going into Tuesday’s hearing.
“In the Hillsborough County case, the courts found that education is not a fundamental right, which means the school board members can do whatever they want as long as they have a rationale,” he said. “The School Board has the authority to maintain a policy as long as they wish.”
Leduc cited Florida Article 9 as part of his argument, which states, “Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education.”
He said it’s been well documented that children who are in E-learning programs are not performing as well as their classroom peers, and to refuse to allow them to attend in-person school — whether they wear a mask or not — is unconstitutional.
“People want to enforce government policy on their terms,” Leduc said. “The constitution doesn’t take sabbatical during a health crisis.”
He explained that while he felt the Sarasota County judge was very empathetic to the plaintiffs, going forward with the lawsuit would be frivolous, and the parents agreed.
“In these kinds of cases, the judge’s hands are tied,” Leduc said. “A state statue must be upheld if there is any rational basis, and the plaintiff has not been able to negate a reason.”
Leduc added, “The lessons to the citizens of Florida is to be careful who you vote for in school board elections because they’ve got the power and the courts side with them.”
The parents involved in the lawsuit raised more than $11,000 to put toward legal fees, according to their GoFundMe campaign.