How judge’s order to get rid of no-mask mandate could affect schools

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Melissa Montoya
Published: Updated:
A judge has paved the way for local school districts to make their own decision on masking. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Schools could be one step closer to enforcing pandemic restrictions after a judge blocked Gov. Ron DeSantis’ no-mask mandate.

The decision could make a difference in Southwest Florida for districts reluctant to enforce a mandate over fears of repercussions from DeSantis.

The Lee County School Board plans to review its masking policies on Monday.

Collier and Charlotte county schools said it’s too early for them to say what they will do.

But the judge kicked the door open for local districts to order masks for all.

“Face mask policies that follow CDC guidance are, at this point in time, reasonable and consistent with the best scientific and medical opinion guidance in this country at this time,” Judge John Cooper said.

Lee County School Board member Mary Fischer said “it’s about time.”

She said the board will now prepare to start the mask debate again, this time with no parental opt-out.

“Whatever happens, my vote will definitely be in favor of requiring masks at this time,” Fischer said.

WINK News called all of the district’s board members. In addition to Fischer, Betsy Vaughn said she would vote for a mandate. Melisa W. Giovannelli, Chris N. Patricca, Debbie Jordan and Cathleen O’Daniel Morgan did not return a request for comment.

Lee County School Board member Gwyn Gittens is unsure how she will vote, but she said this might be a way to help everyone come together to put out the fire.

“I can’t stand staunchly on we must do this if I don’t know all of the information so honestly I don’t know what I’ll do,” Gittens said.

The local teacher’s union president said letting local districts make the call is the right thing.

The state will appeal the order, but so far no comment from DeSantis.

Parisima Taeb, a mother of a Lee County student who is also a doctor, said the ruling is on point.

More than 200 doctors signed her petition for a mask mandate in the school district.

“The school district can have all these flowcharts set, they could have all these meetings, workshops, and they could enact implement all these safe other safety measures,” said Taeb, an internal medicine physician. “The most important, most preventive safety protocol is to mandate masks period. If they don’t do that, all the other stuff, the whole system is broken.”


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