WSHC+B partner and managing director of the firm’s Fort Lauderdale office, Jamie A. Cole, will represent Leon County Schools in navigating the legal challenges regarding mask mandates in public schools.
After Superintendent Rocky Hanna instituted a temporary mask mandate for students in pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said the state will continue to withhold part of the salaries of superintendents and school board members in counties requiring in-school masks with no parental opt-out.
Cole, along with Firm partner, Ed Guedes, and senior associate, Richard Rosengarten, is also representing the School Board of Miami-Dade on similar matters, but Cole noted that Leon County is different because they began the school year by complying with the state’s interpretation of the emergency rule.
In a letter from Leon County Schools, which Cole assisted in drafting, the district argued it is following the DOH rule based on its language. It stated that to comply with the state’s interpretation of the rule, they would have to ignore CDC guidelines, the Florida state Constitution, and Florida statutes.
School Board members continue to insist that the issue is broader than masks, that this is a battle for home rule and the right of school districts to protect their own children.
In an interview with WFSU Public Media, Cole said “I’ve been fighting for home rule for cities and governments. And if the state or the governor and other state agencies are able to force you to do whatever they say and penalize you personally for doing it or kick you out of office for the way you vote—it goes to the heart of democracy and the separation of powers.”
According to Cole, this is a very difficult spot to be in and school board members are doing what they believe is right for the safety and health of their students.
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