TALLAHASSEE, FL – A Florida judge issued a ruling on Wednesday that school districts in the state are legally allowed to issue mask mandates with no ability to opt-out to all students and staff while an appeal filed by the office of Governor Ron DeSantis is ongoing in the courts.
After a judge’s ruling last month declared that DeSantis’ executive order banning school districts in his state from issuing COVID-19 mask mandates “exceeded his authority” and was “unconstitutional,” the governor’s office immediately filed an appeal with a higher court, which automatically led to an immediate pause on school mask mandates until a ruling was made.
However, at a hearing on Wednesday, Second Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled that the state of Florida is prohibited from enforcing the mask-mandate ban until a further ruling is issued in the upcoming appeal, allowing school districts that defied DeSantis to maintain their individual policies.
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Judge Cooper stated in his opinion that Florida law “does not support a statewide order, or any action interfering with the constitutionally provided authority of local school districts to provide for the safety and health of children, based on the unique facts on the ground in a particular county.”
The case will now go to the First District Court of Appeal, and depending on the outcome of that ruling, it ultimately may end up in the Florida Supreme Court.
In late July, DeSantis has signed an executive order that the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Department of Health issue rules to school districts, declaring that masking in public schools could not be mandatory and a parent “opt-out” clause – for any reason – must be included. Penalties for disobeying the executive order included having state funding cut from school officials’ salaries in offending districts.
Despite DeSantis’ order, 13 school districts in the state nonetheless issued full mask mandates – with no ability to opt-out – for all students and staff.
DeSantis, who is planning to run for reelection in 2022 – with a rumored run for the White House in 2024 on the Republican ticket – has long been against mask mandates and lockdowns throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that individuals should have control over what they do in that regard.