Florida Appeals Court Temporarily OKs Ban on School Mask Mandates
The judge previously deemed local school districts’ mask mandates are limited and reasonable, and are exempted under the state’s “Parents’ Bill of Rights” law.
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 13, 2021: On Friday an appeals court reinstated Florida’s ban on mask mandates. The reinstatement of the ban, however, is temporary until the court issues it’s final ruling, reports ABC News.
Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Carlee Simon responded in a statement that the decision was “disappointing” and that the legal challenges to the ban “are just beginning.”
Additionally, on Friday the U.S. Department of Education launched an investigation into whether the state’s ban violated the civil rights of students with disabilities, reports the Miami Herald. It will investigate if the ban restricts students with disabilities’ access to a public education.
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 9, 2021: Leon County Florida Circuit Court Judge John Cooper ruled on Wednesday that Florida must immediately stop enforcing Gov. Ron DeSantis’ mask mandate ban in schools.
Cooper said Florida failed to prove that the state’s appeal of his previous ruling on the matter would be successful, reports NBC Miami. The judge also argued that the state failed to prove that delaying its compliance with the judge’s ruling would not irreparably harm school children.
An adviser to DeSantis claimed that making children wear masks was child abuse, however, Cooper argued that “The greater weight of the evidence did not support the claim that mandatory face masks … would create any meaningful harm to those wearing it.”
The attorney for the state, Michael Abel, said he believes the state will win the case on appeal.
UPDATE AUGUST 31, 2021: Despite a Florida judge’s ruling that the state’s ban on mask mandates is illegal, the Florida Department of Education on Monday said it has withheld the monthly salaries of school board members from Alachua and Broward counties, reports Reuters.
ORIGINAL AUGUST 30, 2021 ARTICLE:
A Leon County, Florida judge ruled on Friday that Florida schools can now legally require students, faculty and staff to wear face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Circuit Court Judge John Cooper ruled that Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration “acted without legal authority” when he banned mask mandates in schools, reports the Miami Herald. Cooper ruled the governor improperly invoked and selectively enforced the state’s “Parents’ Bill of Rights” law when he ordered the ban.
The judge said the law exempts government actions needed to protect public health and are reasonable and limited in scope. Cooper said the school districts’ mask mandates are included in that exemption, reports the Associated Press.
The decision comes after 10 of the state’s 67 school districts defied DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach. Before Cooper issued his ruling, there was a four-day online trial on the matter.
Florida is currently struggling with a massive surge of COVID-19 infections and deaths. Last week the state reported 1,727 COVID deaths and 151,760 cases among Florida residents (the state excludes non-residents in its case count), reports the Orlando Sentinel.
Numerous studies have found that face masks are effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19, reports KXAN.
Districts are now scrambling to interpret the judge’s ruling, however, most say it will have little impact on how they deal with facial coverings on campus.
The judge asked both sides to develop a proposed order by Monday, based on his findings, that he would use to issue his final ruling, reports NBC News.
The state said it plans to appeal the ruling.