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Florida AG Moody tells Suwannee School District 'comply' with mask mandate ban

Posted at 5:09 PM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 17:13:02-04

SUWANNEE COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) — Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody's response Wednesday to an inquiry from the Suwannee County School District about going against the law banning mask mandates in schools may not have been what the district hoped for.

In a letter to Moody, Leonard J. Dietzen, III, the Board Attorney for the Suwannee County School District, indicated that the District has made the wearing of masks by students while in school optional; however, “the Suwannee County community is not unanimous,” and “there has been some dissent.”

Dietzen wrote he was “aware of multiple school boards that have implemented policies that would appear to take positions that may be contrary to [Rule 64DER21-12].”

The letter to Moody asked if the District “must follow Florida law as written,” or whether it can “selectively enforce it” if the District believes the relevant legal authorities are invalid.

In her response, Moody stated, "Notably, while you say that there is pending litigation regarding the validity of the underlying legal authorities, there does not appear to be pending litigation on the question whether school districts must comply with those authorities pending such litigation."

The Attorney General found “it is my opinion that the District must comply with Rule 64DER21-12 and any other applicable authorities unless and until the judiciary declares them invalid.”

The judiciary has not declared the rule to be invalid, and as such, this advisory opinion clearly states that multiple school districts are breaking the law by violating parents’ rights. Today, the Department is urging every school district that has mandated masks without an opt out to promptly change its policies and comply with Florida’s rules and laws.

-AG Moody

Regarding public schools, e.g. school safety, the Florida Legislature authorized the Department of Health to issue rules governing “the control of preventable communicable diseases” in schools. § 1003.22(3), Fla. Stat. Rule 64DER21-12 invokes that statute and says that schools “must allow for a parent or legal guardian,” on behalf of a child, “to opt-out” of mask requirements.

Under Florida law, “public officials are obligated to obey the legislature’s duly enacted statute until the judiciary passes on its constitutionality.”