School District reinstates mask opt-out for students | News, Sports, Jobs
Effective today, the Lee County School District reinstated an opt-opt feature for its mask mandate.
Citing a suspension issued by the court of appeal of the 1st “Which means the Florida Department of Education can continue to enforce its interpretation of the parental opt-out until this matter is finally resolved.” Superintendent Dr. Ken Savage sent a letter to all parents on Monday revisiting the issue and reinstating the ability for parents to opt out of the county mask requirement for their child or children.
“So, starting Tuesday the 14th, the Lee County School District is requiring this to be done indoors on campus, indoors at school-sponsored activities, and on school buses.” it says in the letter.
The requirement continues to apply to employees in the district.
“Since the residency is only for students, the district staff must continue to wear masks and follow the exemption medical procedure established by the human resources department.” it says in the letter.
School boards voted earlier this month that masks must be worn with no opt-outs for parents after a judge ruled that Governor Ron DeSantis did not have the power to prevent school boards from issuing mask mandates. School boards that have issued mask mandates without parental opt-outs have been threatened by the State Department of Education commissioner’s office of losing funding from their school board, including Lee County Schools.
Savage said he and the district understand that parents have the right to make decisions about their children. However, he hopes most will choose to use masks to protect their children and others.
“I will always be an advocate for parental rights” he wrote. “I am particularly considerate of those parents who have the right to send their child to school and not have to choose between the security of their household and the personal, high-quality public education of their child. Nor can I help but think about the rights of parents whose children are isolated in the intensive care unit at Golisano Children’s Hospital and whose only wish is that their child can survive this terrible ordeal.
“In view of the legal landscape, I appeal to your humanity and your sense of community. With around 500 COVID-19 patients isolated in our local hospital system and 101% bed capacity over the weekend, remember these are not just numbers. These are people. These are your neighbors, your family, your friends, your co-workers. I believe the vast majority of our community are sensible, caring people who want this surge to end as soon as possible and who volunteer to wear masks as an extra measure to protect one another from harm. “
He concluded with a request for the children.
“Our students have shown great resilience throughout this pandemic.” he wrote. “They just want to go to school, chat with their classmates, and restore some semblance of normalcy once that tragic experience wears off. The vast majority of parents and employees want the same thing.
“I beg you to demonstrate your commitment to one another by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, and following other safety protocols to help us make this climb together. I will never underestimate the ability of our community to show love and compassion for one another. “
The mandatory mask policy with no opt-out has sparked controversy between parents and officials at the state level.
State Rep. Spencer Roach sent a letter to Savage on September 10 stating that “Given the stay granted this afternoon by the First District Court of Appeals, which is restoring the right of parents to make health care decisions on behalf of their children, I urge you to immediately comply with rule 64DER21-12 and repeal the illegal mask mandate that It was unilaterally imposed on August 30. “
Roach then reinforced his position by saying that failure to do so would result in Savage being removed from his position as district superintendent
“If you cannot revoke this illegal order by close of business on Monday, September 13th, I will formally request Governor DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to terminate your employment with the Lee County School District with immediate effect.” he wrote. “Parents – not the government – have sole authority to make health care decisions for their children, and I will use every power of my office to defend their right to it.”
Roach said Tuesday afternoon that he applauded Savage for doing the right thing and lifting the mask mandate without parents being able to shut out their children. He said that once residency was restored, the district’s mask mandate would be illegal.
“I am grateful that you did that (lifted the mask mandate for students) and did the right thing in empowering parents.” Roach said, adding that he expects it to stay that way until the matter is settled in court. “I am glad that he obeys the law and empowers the parents to make the decision.”
Roach said the debate, which is very polarizing, is causing the entire country to be split in the middle on both sides of vaccines and mask mandates.
“For me, it’s about the rule of law, regardless of personal feelings about masks. I think we all agree that our government employees have a responsibility to obey laws. For me it was about making sure our school board and our superintendent obey the law set by the courts and the attorney general. “ said Roach. “We just can’t have elected boards of directors or appointed officials choosing the laws to obey.”
He predicts that who controls and makes these decisions about children’s health care and education will be a key issue in 2022.
There are three bills for the upcoming legislative session that revolve around school boards, Roach said. These bills mean that the school board elections will again be partisan; make a school principal an elected position so that the position would be much more accountable to the people; and reset the eight year term for members of the school board.
“I met the members of the Lee County School Board. This is not an attack on them. It is not meant negatively. I respect your opinion, just don’t agree. “ said Roach. “They really, sincerely believe that their job is to represent teachers and teacher unions.”
He said they really represent parents and students.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include comments from Rep. Spencer Roach.