Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was handed a victory on Friday when a court reinstated his ban on mask mandates for public schools.
A court on Wednesday ruled that mask mandates in schools must be permitted, and the judge cited the coronavirus pandemic for his decision to override the governor. The ruling lifted an automatic stay that stopped enforcement of the ban while the case was being decided in court.
“We’re not in normal times. We are in a pandemic,” Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper said, according to the Associated Press. “We have a (coronavirus) variant that is more infectious and dangerous to children than the one we had last year.”
Representatives for DeSantis responded to the judge’s decision to nullify the governor’s authority on the matter.
“No surprise here that Judge Cooper concluded that he is unlikely to be overruled on appeal. We (unsurprisingly) disagree. Today, we plan to file our emergency motion to reinstate the stay, and we anticipate the appellate court will rule quickly, much like during the school re-opening case last year,” said DeSantis’ Communications Director Taryn Fenske, WKMG-TV reported.
Lawyers for the governor filed an emergency appeal, and on Friday, he won.
Florida’s First District Court of Appeals reversed Cooper’s order and sided with individual choice on the matter.
The appellate court wrote that “the stay should have been left in place pending appellate review.”
Attorney Charles Gallagher, who filed the lawsuit, responded to the ruling Friday and vowed to take the matter to the Florida Supreme Court.
“We are disappointed by the ruling of the 1st DCA that reinstates the stay and will be seeking pass through jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Florida since this matter involves statewide issues. With a stay in place, students, parents and teachers are back in harm’s way,” Gallagher said.
The governor ordered that virus mitigation efforts were OK, as long as they did not violate constitutional liberty or parents’ rights to make health care decisions for their own children and as long as they protected “children with disabilities or health conditions who would be harmed by certain protocols such as face masking requirements.”
“The Florida Commissioner of Education shall pursue all legal means available to ensure school districts adhere to Florida law, including but not limited to withholding state funds from noncompliant school boards violating any rules or agency action taken,” his order added.
Thirteen school districts statewide were also in defiance of the executive order.
Florida is among a number of Republican-led states that have banned mask mandates.
Some of those states are being investigated by the Department of Education for supposed “civil rights” violations over their decisions to ban adults from forcing children to mask up.
It is not yet clear when the Florida Supreme Court will hear an appeal to Friday’s ruling.
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