Masks to remain mandatory in Hillsborough schools after judge tosses lawsuit

Students in Hillsborough County schools must continue to wear masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. A judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by parents who opposed the district’s mandate.

The district implemented the mask rule over the summer before classes even resumed as part of the larger plan to contain the coronavirus while also allowing in-person classes. All students and staff are required to wear face-coverings except while eating and in some instances outside.

Tampa attorney Patrick Leduc, who had also challenged the authority of the county’s Emergency Policy Group and the county's COVID-19 curfew, argued last week that the choice about wearing masks should be left up to parents, not administrators.

“We have the power to dictate to you, parent, what we think is in your child’s best interest," he said, mocking the policy.

But school district attorneys pointed out that the mask rule is based on CDC guidance, which, in turn, is based on science.

"There’s no dispute that children, like adults, can and do spread the virus. We cited to court several studies on this point including from the American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC guidance," Jason Margolin explained, calling the lawsuit meritless.

Appeals court rejects GOP chairman's challenge to Leon County mask mandate

An appeals court has tossed out a challenge by the Leon County Republican Party chairman to a county requirement that people wear face masks to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Wednesday morning, Hillsborough County Judge Martha Cook ruled in favor of the district, dismissing the lawsuit.

Cook said the mask mandate is lawful because it protects the health, safety and welfare of students. 

"Requiring individuals to wear face coverings in a public location is not a constitutional violation," she explained.  

Following the judge's decision, Leduc said he was disappointed but added that his clients plan to continue the fight in other Bay Area school districts.