Florida Governor Appeals Ruling on Masks in Schools
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has appealed a judge’s ruling that the governor exceeded his authority by ordering school boards not to impose strict mask requirements on students to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The governor’s lawyers took their case Thursday to the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. DeSantis wants the appeals court to reverse last week’s decision by Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper, which essentially gave Florida’s 67 school boards the power to impose a student mask mandate without parental consent. Cooper’s ruling was automatically stayed by the appeal.
DeSantis, a Republican, said at a news conference earlier this week that he is confident the state will win on appeal by linking the mask mandate order to the Parents Bill of Rights law. That law, the governor said, reserves for parents the authority to oversee their children’s education and health.
Cooper found, however, that the Bill of Rights law exempts government actions that are needed to protect public health and are reasonable and limited in scope — such as masking students to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
“It doesn’t require that a mask mandate must include a parental opt-out at all,” Cooper said in an oral ruling Friday.
DeSantis and state education officials have threatened to impose financial penalties on school boards that adopt a mask requirement without a provision allowing parents to opt out.
So far, they have moved to withhold salaries for school board members in Alachua and Broward counties. Those are two of the 13 school boards representing over half of Florida’s 2.8 million students that have voted for mask mandates in defiance of the governor’s order.
“Ultimately, we are just trying to stand with the parents,” DeSantis said. “We think it’s important that they are given the ability to opt out.”
In his ruling last week, Cooper agreed with a group of parents who claimed in a lawsuit that DeSantis’ order is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. The issue has triggered intense and divisive school board meetings around the state, pitting parents who say masks are essential for children’s safety against those who call orders to wear them government overreach.
DeSantis has dismissed the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people wear masks. In particular, he contends that masks are less essential for young people and carry some risks of their own for children.
But Cooper said the state’s medical experts who testified during the trial that masking is ineffective in preventing COVID-19’s spread are in a distinct minority among doctors and scientists. He also said that while DeSantis frequently states that a Brown University study concluded masks are ineffective, the study’s authors wrote that no such conclusion should be drawn.
In The News
In The States
ATLANTA — Former Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., announced on Monday he will enter the Georgia gubernatorial race in a bid... Read More
ATLANTA — Former Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., announced on Monday he will enter the Georgia gubernatorial race in a bid to oust incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp. Perdue narrowly lost a January runoff election to Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., but was reportedly encouraged to challenge Kemp by... Read More
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department sued Texas on Monday over the state’s new redistricting plan, alleging it violated Section 2... Read More
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department sued Texas on Monday over the state’s new redistricting plan, alleging it violated Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act by diluting the Latino vote. “The attorney general has made clear that the Justice Department will not stand idly by... Read More
SAN ANTONIO — A Texas law restricting the teaching of critical race theory principles in public schools went into effect... Read More
SAN ANTONIO — A Texas law restricting the teaching of critical race theory principles in public schools went into effect on Thursday after being enacted by Gov. Greg Abbott in June. The new law compels public school teachers to not discuss issues of controversy that encompass... Read More
RESERVE, La. (AP) — Michael Coleman's house is the last one standing on his tiny street, squeezed between a sprawling... Read More
RESERVE, La. (AP) — Michael Coleman's house is the last one standing on his tiny street, squeezed between a sprawling oil refinery whose sounds and smells keep him up at night and a massive grain elevator that covers his pickup in dust and, he says, exacerbates... Read More
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul took over for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August, and her performance... Read More
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul took over for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August, and her performance so far has strengthened her case for reelection with the state’s voters. Polling data suggests New Yorkers are generally supportive of her early work as governor,... Read More
ATLANTA — Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams announced on Wednesday she will again run for governor in 2022. Abrams previously sought... Read More
ATLANTA — Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams announced on Wednesday she will again run for governor in 2022. Abrams previously sought to become Georgia’s first Black female governor in 2018 when she lost to current Gov. Brian Kemp. That election came down to the wire but Abrams... Read More