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Smith Hulsey Secures Dismissal of Lawsuit Against Episcopal School of Jacksonville for COVID Mask Mandate

A Jacksonville court recently granted our motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought against Episcopal School of Jacksonville over the school’s COVID-19 mask policy. Several parents sued the school, claiming that its policy requiring unvaccinated students to wear masks infringes on a parent’s right to make healthcare-related decisions on behalf of a minor child. 

However, on September 22, Senior Circuit Judge Robert M. Foster granted the firm’s motion to dismiss, citing that the so-called Parents’ Bill of Rights in state law does not apply to private schools.

“If the parents’ Bill of Rights applied to private religious institutions (like Defendants), they would be forced to justify their constitutionally-protected religious practices to a court – by showing their practices are ‘necessary to achieve a compelling state interest’ – instead of the state being required to justify its infringement of those rights under the same strict scrutiny standard,” Judge Foster wrote in his order. “This is an absurd role reversal, and the Court will not countenance any interpretation raising such grave and far-reaching constitutional concerns.”

This summer, Episcopal School of Jacksonville officials announced that everyone on campus over the age of 3 would be required to wear a mask indoors. The only exception was for fully vaccinated students if a family completed an opt-out form.

The Smith Hulsey team argued that, as a private school, Episcopal is not subject to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order, which banned school districts from establishing universal mask mandates.

Firm chairman Steve Busey said, “This was the right result for Episcopal. The parents agreed in their enrollment contracts to comply with all Episcopal’s policies. If they do not like the school policies, they can send their children to a different school.”

In addition to Busey, the SHB team representing Episcopal includes John Thomas and Kevin Blodgett

The parents are represented by Daniel Bean of the Abel Bean law firm, who is also representing Gov. DeSantis’ in litigation challenging Florida’s school mask mandate ban.

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