Day 1 of trial over Florida school mask mandate ban lawsuit concludes

Coronavirus

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA/Cap News) – Parents from across the state with children who have heath considerations are in court today, the first of three days, over whether Gov. DeSantis has more authority than local school boards when it comes to deciding who wears a mask.

As of Monday evening, seven school districts are not giving parents an opt out from mask mandates. The number grew over the weekend as Leon County made masks mandatory for kids in K through 8th grade, after previously allowing an opt-out.

“We should have mandatory masking in schools,” said retired Judge Charles Dodson, who is not representing parents in the suit to require masks in schools.

In an unusual twist, the former judge who ruled against the state and was later overturned, when it required students to go back to the classroom, is now representing parents like Hillsborough mom Amy Nell. She believes in parents rights, but wants every child in a mask.

“But if your choice puts others in harms way, or doesn’t support the public health in general, then, it becomes more of a community issue” Nell testified.

Michael Abel, Gov. DeSantis’ lawyer and DOE attorney countered that the governor’s order is not forcing anyone to go maskless.

“The freedom of parents to choose whether their own kids have their faces covered at school.”

The appellate court decision in last year’s school re-opening case found that that decision was up to politically accountable…not health officials.

The case surfaced in opening remarks from Gov. DeSantis’ lawyer.

“So at the conclusion of the trial, we’re going to ask this court to enter a judgment for the defendants and dismiss the case,” Abel told the court.

But the year-old decision also opened the door for local school boards to prevail.

USF researcher Thomas Unnasch told the court the difference this time was the behavior of the virus.

“The Delta virus is potentially a much more explosive virus in terms of its spread.”

Whatever the outcome of this trial, it is sure to be appealed to the First District Court of Appeal, the same court that sided with the Governor last year when it came to opening schools.

So far, only Alaucha and Broward counties have been told by the state they are in violation of law. The notice is the first step in levying penalties.

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