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DeSantis to appeal court ruling in mask mandate debate

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Gov. Ron DeSantis promised to appeal a Florida circuit court decision that sided with parents over his executive order forbidding school districts from issuing mandates that require the masking of students in K-12 classrooms. The order follows the passage of CS/CS/SB 582 creating the Parental Bill of Rights which prohibits the state, its political subdivisions, other governmental entities, or other institutions from infringing on parental rights.

In July, DeSantis issued an executive order directing the Florida Departments of Health and of Education to work together on protocols for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in schools that do not violate the rights of parents to make healthcare decisions for their children. He later said that he would not require children returning to in-person learning to wear masks to school, but that parents could require their own children to wear masks in school if they chose.

Since then, some school districts have violated DeSantis’ order by requiring K-12 students to wear masks to school, and by suing DeSantis over the constitutionality of his order.

In Hernando County, masks remain optional, although on Aug. 31 the school board will be considering their options regarding mask mandates and will follow up with “Board Action as School Board Deems Appropriate.”

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On Aug. 27 Judge John C. Cooper of the 2nd District Court in Florida ruled that in issuing the order, DeSantis overstepped his authority as the state’s chief executive.

Cooper’s ruling also said that the law specifically authorizes school boards to issue policies such as mask mandates as long as those boards have the right to explain in a court of law why that policy is reasonable.

Finally, Cooper’s decision that affects school districts statewide, enjoined DeSantis and other state agencies such as the Florida Department of Health from enforcing a blanket ban on mask mandates.

During an Aug. 30 press conference in Jacksonville, DeSantis promised to appeal Cooper’s ruling.

The Parents Bill of Rights requires that parents can opt-out (of a local mask mandate) and they’ve (the court) basically taken away the right of the parent,” DeSantis said. “It will be appealed and at the end of the day we’ll end up getting it (a court’s decision) back – ultimately we’re just trying to stand with the parents.

Cooper’s written ruling will become official when it is filed on Aug. 31.


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