WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA (October 4, 2021) — Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) filed a lawsuit today against the School District of Palm Beach County (SDPBC) for its unlawful facial covering policy, on behalf of 35 parents and 38 children. The facial-covering policy violates the parents’ fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children, violates the children’s fundamental right to privacy, and ignores how facial-coverings have harmed many of the children.
New provisions of Florida law were enacted this summer to require all school district facial-covering policies to unconditionally allow parents to opt their children out of wearing facial-coverings at school. Initially, SDPBC complied and changed its facial-covering policy to allow unconditional parental opt-outs. The parents of over 11,000 students submitted opt-out letters.
However, on August 18, SDPBC eliminated the parental opt-out and dishonored already-submitted opt-out letters. SDPBC’s illegal about-face occurred only five days before school started, leaving thousands of parents scrambling for what to do with their children.
The facial covering policy violates a Florida Department of Health Rule which requires school districts to allow parents and legal guardians “to opt the student out of wearing a face covering or mask at [their] sole discretion.” The policy also violates the Florida Parents’ Bill of Rights, which protects “the fundamental rights of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, health-care, and mental health of his or her minor child” from governmental intrusion. Further, the facial-covering policy violates the children’s right to privacy protected by the Florida Constitution.
“The Florida Supreme Court has previously ruled that the fundamental right to privacy includes the complete freedom of a person to control their own body,” stated Alexander Bumbu, PJI’s Florida staff attorney who filed this lawsuit. “More recently, a Florida appellate court applied the Florida Supreme Court’s interpretation and concluded that a person can reasonably expect to not be forced by the government to put something on their own face against their will. SDPBC brazenly violates those fundamental rights while harming children.”
Many of the children, who have been disciplined at school for not wearing facial-coverings, have developed conditions due to wearing facial-coverings, such as severe anxiety, difficulty breathing, persistent headaches, dermatological issues, and eye-infections.
“Without question, SDPBC is breaching parents’ rights by its continued unwillingness to comply with Florida law,” said Brad Dacus, president of PJI. “In a court of law, Mr Bumbu will hold SDPBC accountable for its actions on behalf of Florida’s parents and students.”
PJI is one of the largest religious non-profit legal organizations in the country, with offices from coast to coast. PJI has been a beacon for parental rights for over twenty years, protecting parents’ fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children. For more information on PJI and how to support their work, click here.