Q&A – Penalties For Infringing Florida’s Parent’s Bill Of Rights

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Today’s entry: Are you familiar with civil or criminal penalties that can be applied to Florida school board members that mandate masks?

Bottom Line: With a remarkable 12 of Florida’s 67 school districts still choosing to violate Florida’s Parental Bill of Rights, according to the DeSantis administration and the courts, including all of South Florida’s school districts, this is an excellent question. Already the state has withheld funding equal to the salaries of the school boards in Alachua and Broward counties, the first two to defy state law, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The state made this clear, "As an initial step, the Florida Department of Education will then begin to withhold from state funds, on a monthly basis, an amount equal to 1/12 of the total annual compensation of the school board members who voted to impose the unlawful mask mandates until each district demonstrates compliance." The initial step notation looms large in the conversation. As for what those subsequent steps could be. They are many based upon the type(s) of infraction related to the parental bill of rights. I’ll get to that in a moment but first, the potential penalties in Florida Statutes pertaining to school boards are very clear.

The law states, "any member of the district school board who is responsible for the violation of this provision is subject to suspension and removal." No real ambiguity. There are three phases of potential punishment for school board members. Phase one is withholding funding equal to the salaries of these officials. Phase two would be suspension and phase three would be removal. There are no inherent criminal penalties that’d be applied with the school mask mandate, for example under Florida law. 

Now there’s another key cog in this conversation. The schools. Remove schools from the conversation for a moment. Let’s say your boss at work instructs you to break the law. If you do, do you have personal liability? Of course, right? It’s unfortunate that school districts would place educators and staff at the school level in this position, but they have. Given that the school districts have no lawful authority to mandate masks without parental opt-outs, neither do school officials. Most of the penalties associated with violations of the Parent’s Bill of Rights are specific to healthcare decisions made without a parent’s consent at the individual school level. The case could be made and based on the state’s previous statements regarding the violations, that mask mandates are a non-consented healthcare violation. 

Under the law this is what it states: Section 8 – Administrative Fines and Violations The Agency for Health Care Administration may impose an administrative fine for a violation of the provisions regarding the parental consent for health care services. The violation is an unclassified violation and the fine may not exceed $500 for each violation.

The bulk of the penalties written with Florida’s Parent’s Bill of Rights seemingly address school health officials administering unauthorized healthcare services to students. The National Institutes of Health published studies showing up to 81% of students having suffered negative mental and physical health effects from having to wear masks at school last year, this may open the door to wider interpretation. Especially given the clarity by school districts that the mask mandates without parental opt-outs are being carried out specifically for healthcare purposes. Something we’ve not discussed at any point in this school mask debate is the potential liability school officials and educators may be accepting by adhering to the unlawful mandates of the school districts. 

While I doubt state enforcement would start at the individual school level, without having first taken more extensive action against violating school boards, there is the potential for liability. Educators carrying out school mask mandates in violation of Florida law are potentially engaging in education misconduct. Especially with the state health department saying the school mask mandates directly harm students. 

Under Florida law right now school boards, superintendents, principals nor teachers retain any legal authority to enforce a mask mandate. While violating school boards and schools seemingly think they can ignore the law and just go about their business, there’s likely going to be much more to come and potentially some rude awakenings for them. 

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Parler & Twitter: @brianmuddradio 

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